In what one senior UN official described as a “significant” discovery, the word now is that the test samples taken from the Syrian site attacked by Israel in 2007 contained traces of graphite and 80 uranium particles, a trivial amount.
The United States had claimed that the Syrian government was building a secret gas-graphite reactor on the destroyed site, which it speculated might have been used to produce nuclear weapons. The finding of a small amount of processed uranium is problematic, but given the reactor was a type meant to run on raw, unprocessed uranium and produce plutonium, not necessarily in keeping with the claims.
Likewise, the discovery of graphite is new, but while the official confirmed “we are sure it is man-made graphite,” they have not ascertained if it was nuclear-grade. Graphite has an enormous array of industrial uses, many of which are not related to nuclear weapons production. Officials are using the discovery to pressure Syria into providing additional access to the bombed site as well as three others, alleged by the United States to be involved in a secret nuclear program.
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