Is this the Syrian nuke reactor bombed by Israel?

posted at 12:18 pm on October 24, 2007 by Allahpundit

Some clever soul used the info from this morning’s WaPo story about photographs of the reactor circulating among intel types to try to find it on Google Earth. With possible success: follow the link in Dan Riehl’s post and see for yourself. The description of a small, squarish, nondescript building conspicuously removed from the surrounding populated areas but near a river does roughly match.

reactor003.jpg

Independent experts have pinpointed what they believe to be the Euphrates River site in Syria that was bombed by Israel last month, and satellite imagery of the area shows buildings under construction roughly similar in design to a North Korean reactor capable of producing nuclear material for one bomb a year, the experts say.

reactor005.jpg

Photographs of the site taken before the secret Sept. 6 airstrike depict an isolated compound that includes a tall, boxy structure similar to the type of building used to house a gas-graphite reactor. They also show what could have been a pumping station used to supply cooling water for a reactor, say experts David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

U.S. and international experts and officials familiar with the site, who were shown the photographs yesterday, said there was a strong and credible possibility that they depict the remote compound that was attacked.

reactor004.jpg

The compound’s distance from populated areas was a key detail, since reactors are usually isolated from major urban populations.

The site is also close to an irrigated area, which would explain statements by some officials privy to details of the attack that the facility was located near orchards. A small airstrip about two miles away could have been used to transport personnel to the site.

Here’s a satellite image of one of North Korea’s suspected reactors from 2004. The actual reactor building is, I believe, the squarish structure in the center with the antenna on top. Dovish nuke experts make the obvious point that it’s hard to tell what the Syrian structure is from the air given how nondescript the shape of the North Korean design is. Israel reportedly wasn’t acting on satellite imagery alone, though; if you believe ABC News, they had a mole snapping pics inside the structure and if you believe the Times of London they even got away with seized samples of material. Meanwhile, per a story in yesterday’s WaPo, Syria has already begun dismantling the site in the wake of the airstrike. My favorite part comes when “the experts” pull their chins and try to figure out why Israel would have acted unilaterally instead of referring this matter to the nuclear agency that’s been loitering with Iran for the past five years and whose head is, in all likelihood, in Tehran’s pocket. Why, oh why?

While expressing concern over the prospect that Syria may have decided to launch a nuclear program in secret, some weapons experts question why neither Israel nor the United States made any effort before the secret attack — or in the six weeks since — to offer evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a move that would trigger an inspection of Syria by the nuclear watchdog.

“The reason we have an IAEA and a safeguard system is that, if there is evidence of wrongdoing, it can be presented by a neutral body to the international community so that a collective response can be pursued,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It seems to me highly risky and premature for another country to bomb such a facility.”

The real question is why Israel acted now when the reactor surely wouldn’t have been completed for years. Just sending a message to Iran? If so, it was an awfully high-stakes message.


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If you look really close you can see Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa.

infidel4life on October 24, 2007 at 12:24 PM

BA-BOOM…God Bless Israel…!!!

areseaoh on October 24, 2007 at 12:26 PM

Does it really matter?

Ortzinator on October 24, 2007 at 12:26 PM

Keep in mind also the Al Jazeera story about Syria encouraging people to settle in the golan heights and rebuilding efforts there. Seems Assad wanted “Human Sheilds” that worked so well for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

I think we shouldnt over look the role the US played in this. Bush is gunshy about attacking another country but for Israel this is life or death. There is alot behind the scenes we dont know

William Amos on October 24, 2007 at 12:27 PM

“a move that would trigger an inspection of Syria by the nuclear watchdog” – I imagine the nuclear watchdog being very much like the cult comedian Neil Hamburger.

Watchdog: “Ah, excuse me, we’ve heard that you might have some… that you might be making some… I’m terribly sorry to bother you…”
Syrian PM: “I can assure you that we have no nuclear weapons.”
Watchdog: “Oh, that’s perfectly alright. Not like those nasty Israelis, eh! Ah. Cheerio!”

Apeking on October 24, 2007 at 12:28 PM

BTW came acrossed a story in one of those Israeli papers about a conversation printed in a syrian paper by one of their leading generals.

This Syria general was telling the paper that the Syria army would be completely ready soon for a war with Israel that he seem to feel would happen soon

William Amos on October 24, 2007 at 12:30 PM

Would you mind posting the coordinates of the facility? Easy enough to take them off of the Google Earth image.

Henry Bowman on October 24, 2007 at 12:31 PM

Hmm did Google maps just pull the satelite image??

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/download.php?Number=1036360&t=k&om=1

offroadaz on October 24, 2007 at 12:32 PM

I didn’t see a .KMZ file or link in Dan Riehl’s post, so I searched for the location myself.

Here’s the coordinates to plug into GoogEarth:

Lat: 35°42’25.89″N
Long: 39°50’4.97″E

notta_dhimmi on October 24, 2007 at 12:35 PM

There are an awful lot of people not talking about this strike. They are probably chuckling over all the speculation.

desertdweller on October 24, 2007 at 12:49 PM

If it were so easy for Alan_Browne to find this image and post it, how come no one at the WaPo thought to do the same? That story, combined with a satellite image would have had a greater impact than the story alone.

lawhawk on October 24, 2007 at 12:51 PM

My linkage to working coordinates for GoogEarth sucks.

Here’s a better idea – use the same .kmz file to find the place as was used in the images Allah posted:

Click here to open the location in GoogEarth.

notta_dhimmi on October 24, 2007 at 12:57 PM

If I was Israel, I’d have waited until they’d invested a lot more time and money in that facility then blown the whole thing to kingdom come.

jdpaz on October 24, 2007 at 1:02 PM

The real question is why Israel acted now when the reactor surely wouldn’t have been completed for years.

Isn’t that reason enough to bomb it? Take care of the situation when it isn’t an imminent threat?

Pam on October 24, 2007 at 1:05 PM

I did a distance check using Google Earth. Those Israeli planed had to fly at minimum of 220 miles if they flew in from the coast and ~310 miles directly from the Israeli border. The planes flew almost the entire distance of Syria undetected and then managed to fly all the way back out without any serious problems (so it is assumed).

Fantastically amazing! Is Iran as much of a paper tiger as well? (Rhetorical Question)

Weebork on October 24, 2007 at 1:17 PM

The real question is why Israel acted now when the reactor surely wouldn’t have been completed for years.

Maybe they were housing someone else’s WMDs…

Rick on October 24, 2007 at 1:40 PM

Weebork–I think they came in via Turkish airspace–I seem to remember something about that in the first few days.

But good on Israel again, of course.

Vanceone on October 24, 2007 at 1:47 PM

Of course the rumors when our troops were moving into Iraq about long convoys headed for Syria were totally ignored by just about everybody. If even a smidgen of those were true the Syrians could have been a lot further along in developement and Israel simply could wait no longer. Or, Ms. Rice was back in D.C. rather than lurking about and sticking her nose and $.02 into everything. Either way, the comments by the Syrian general about their preparations for war with Israel is interesting.

24K lady on October 24, 2007 at 2:19 PM

Oh no! That was Syria’s main pistachio nut salting facility!

Shy Guy on October 24, 2007 at 2:31 PM

Oh no! That was Syria’s main pistachio nut salting facility!

Shy Guy on October 24, 2007 at 2:31 PM

Sure it wasn’t an empty pharmaceutical plant?

Rick on October 24, 2007 at 2:39 PM

“The reason we have an IAEA and a safeguard system is that, if there is evidence of wrongdoing, it can be presented covered up and hidden by a neutral a totalitarian support body to the international community be swept under the rug so that a collective no response can be pursued,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It seems to me highly risky and premature likely to be effective for another country to bomb such a facility. (and nobody wants an effective deterrent of course)

Wow that took some effort to untangle. I think I’ve changed his quote to reflect accuracy and the real situation in the world and in the IAEA… which obviously wasn’t the goal.

Exit Question (since AP didn’t have one).

How long would it have taken Syria to relocate this facility had Israel tipped off the IAEA instead of launching a strike?

gekkobear on October 24, 2007 at 2:48 PM

Unless Google recently updated the pictures, the photos in Google Earth are generally over a year old, sometimes several years old except in certain regions where Google keeps them updated sooner for whatever reason.

The last time I looked, the pictures on Google Earth of my house were three years old.

crosspatch on October 24, 2007 at 2:55 PM

Sure it wasn’t an empty pharmaceutical plant?

Rick on October 24, 2007 at 2:39 PM

Oh, the humanity!!!

Shy Guy on October 24, 2007 at 3:03 PM

Here’s a satellite image of one of North Korea’s suspected reactors from 2004. The actual reactor building is, I believe, the squarish structure in the center with the antenna on top.

Respectfully I don’t believe you are correct. The building to the right in the photo is more likely the containment structure for the reactor.

The building you are pointing to is more likely a power generation plant from the output of the plant…it has to dissipate the energy produced somewhere. Also note the cooling tower at the lower left of the photo.

The reactor would not be in the same building with auxiliary machinery. The separate containment building is common industry practice.

This is coming from a nuke industry person with 13 years experience in the Navy and consulting work over the years since then.

I could search for other examples from civilian plants but I will leave that for others to confirm.

CommentGuy on October 24, 2007 at 3:05 PM

As the crow flies it’s .49 miles to the water for a cooling source. Possible, but not really the best situation to put yourself in from a design standpoint.

CommentGuy on October 24, 2007 at 3:09 PM

Yep. This is pretty much what the standard smaller square reactor builiding looks like from the top.

Lawrence on October 24, 2007 at 3:11 PM

Unless Google recently updated the pictures, the photos in Google Earth are generally over a year old, sometimes several years old except in certain regions where Google keeps them updated sooner for whatever reason.

copyright on the image shows 2007.

CommentGuy on October 24, 2007 at 3:12 PM

copyright on the image shows 2007.
CommentGuy on October 24, 2007 at 3:12 PM

I think they continue to update the copyright on the pix. Last year, I found an old pic of my former house with a 2006 copyright.

eeyore on October 24, 2007 at 3:45 PM

“The reason we have an IAEA and a safeguard system is that, if there is evidence of wrongdoing, it can be presented by a neutral body to the international community so that a collective response can be pursued,”

*spit*

CliffHanger on October 24, 2007 at 5:20 PM

Reuters story of 14 Sept

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – DigitalGlobe, provider of imagery for Google Inc’s interactive mapping program Google Earth, said a new high-resolution satellite will boost the accuracy of its satellite images and flesh out its archive.

The new spacecraft, dubbed WorldView I, is to be launched on Tuesday.

Together with the company’s existing Quickbird satellite, it will offer half-meter resolution and will be able to collect over 600,000 square kilometers of imagery each day, up from the current collection of that amount each week, Chief Executive Jill Smith told Reuters in a telephone interview.

CommentGuy on October 24, 2007 at 5:52 PM

The smart thing to do.

It would have been beyond stupid for Isreal to pin some kind of hope on the UN. If it were up to the IAEA and the UN Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, and any other despotic regime would have free access to any nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

Israel continually shows the right way to deal with threatening weapon manufacturers.

Rode Werk on October 24, 2007 at 6:27 PM

For way more detailed satellite imagery along with analysis, check this out.

NPP on October 24, 2007 at 11:42 PM