Reports resurface of underground nuclear facility in Syria

Qusayr believed to be underground nuclear facility; First reports surfaced in 2015 with satellite imagery proving Assad’s regime hiding its construction; Report: Israel’s action serves to highlight once again the lack of accounting for Syria’s past nuclear weapons program and the location of any assets remaining from that program.

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Following Israel’s confirmation that it destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor over a decade ago, reports resurfaced of an underground nuclear facility in Syria.

A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security revisited intelligence previously collected and published in a Der Speigel article in 2015 on an underground nuclear facility at the Qusayr site in Syria. Construction of the site began sometime in 2009, with satellite imagery of continued construction on the site since.

The report highlights evidence not only from satellite imagery, but from intelligence reports over the past years on nuclear efforts of the Assad regime, including its partnership with North Korea on nuclear weapons development and research.

Some highlights from the report are of satellite imagery from 2009 that showed construction and excavation of limestone in the region. The limestone was transported to a different location and camouflaged, the report citing it as “showing significant efforts to hide the underground site.”

It also pointed out the location is connected to a power grid and to a lake and well, with “probable mobile drill rig” photographed in July of 2012, as well as three secret entrances and high security measures.

Hezbollah was tasked with guarding the site near Homs, and Hezbollah officials frequently met with the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission. Some 8,000 fuel rods that were intended for Al Kibar (which Israel destroyed in 2007) were transferred to the new underground site, Qusayr.

This week’s report calls for an inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency, citing Israel’s decision to declassify its strikes on Al Kibar in 2007. It emphasizes that Israel’s reports “includes documents explaining that it had strong evidence of North Korean involvement in the reactor project” and that “Israel’s action serves to highlight once again the lack of accounting for Syria’s past nuclear weapons program and the location of any assets remaining from that program.”

Specifically on nuclear activity and partnership with North Korea, the report warns “Any nuclear-related facility in Syria could involve considerable assistance from North Korea, given that Pyongyang provided extensive assistance in the construction of the Al Kibar reactor. This includes possibly tens of metric tonnes of uranium fuel, and other equipment or materials associated with nuclear fuel fabrication and plutonium separation, that likely existed as key elements of the Al Kibar reactor project.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted to the confirmation by Israel on the strikes in Syria in 2007. He stated on Wednesday, “The Government of Israel, the IDF and the Mossad prevented Syria from developing a nuclear capability. For this they are deserving of all praise. Israel’s policy has been and remains consistent – to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons.”



Photo: Google Images of Qusayr in Syria, 2018