Monthly Archives: April 2008

PrepCom Goings On

The Acronym Institute has some “neat reporting on the PrepCom”: that should be checked out by all. “Day One”: seems to have been quite exciting…

bq. At the end of the day, Syria exercised its right of reply, saying it regretted Canada’s “misleading allegations of nuclear activities” in Syria, which it called a “falsification of the facts… totally undocumented and untrue”. Noting that these allegations had also been taken up by France and Japan, Syria blamed the US administration and said it believed that the purpose of such allegations was to influence the Six Party negotiations on North Korea. *It called on the US to “be wise enough to stop creating further crises in the Middle East, which is already suffering a lot due to the confusion and mistakes of US policy”, and suggested that if Canada really wanted to contribute to peace it would call on Israel to join the NPT and dismantle its nuclear weapons and facilities.*

CIA on Syria Reactor Production Capacity

The reactor featured last week in that video had a production capacity of 1-2 SQs of Pu per year, “according to”:;_ylt=AtAZJrysQL72UZFanfm2PwyCscEA CIA director Hayden. This is apparently based on the assessment that the reactor was the same size as the Nork reactor at Yongbyon.

The reactor was of a “similar size and technology” to North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor, Hayden said, disputing speculation it was smaller than the Korean facility.

“We would estimate that the production rate there would be about the same as Yongbyon, which is about enough plutonium for one or two weapons per year,” he said.

Too bad there isn’t some international agency with the capacity to provide an independent assessment of this sort of thing…

Of Breeders and Burners

Since “rogue states” are not my area of day to day focus, you’ll have to forgive my seemingly out of touch postings. I’ve been doing long overdue homework on Russia’s BN-800 fast neutron reactor today and thought I’d pass along a link to the very useful “IAEA Fast Reactor Database”: Even though the FRDB appears to not have been updated for some time, it’s still probably the neatest clearinghouse of information for technical newbies (like me).

The BN-800 (“IAEA FRDB backgrounder”: will be used in dispositioning of a substantial portion of the 34 metric tons of Russia’s excess military plutonium, as has been articulated in this U.S.-Russian “November 2007 MoU”: Russia plans to operate the BN-800 (or Beloyarsk-4), expected to be “launched in 2012”:, as a burner and not a breeder of plutonium.

This Argonne Lab “overview and map of Soviet/Russian fast reactors”: is a bit dated, but useful as well. Finally, here is a “paper with pretty cool visuals”: that explains some of the basics of MOX fuel manufactured by the vibropacking method, which is an option considered for the BN-800.

State Dept On Yongbyon

In early February, the State Department responded to some Questions for The Record about the six party talks and North Korean denuclearization. You can “download”: their response, but I want to highlight the portion discussing the state of the Yongbyon facilities. (AKA, the place with the reactor that was disabled _without_ anyone bombing anything).

You may have heard that the facilities were at the end of their useful life span when the North Koreans shut them down this past summer. State, however, says that such is not the case:

U.S. experts currently overseeing disablement activities at Yongbyon have stated that in their view, if the site had not been shut down and sealed under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), *the facility could have remained operational and would have continued to produce additional fissile material.* Indeed, the 5 MW(e) reactor was in operation and producing plutonium up until the date of its shutdown, and several areas of the fuel rod fabrication facility were also in operation until mid-July. Although *the reprocessing plant* was not in operation at that time, it *had operated as recently as 2005 when the DPRK unloaded and reprocessed its previous core load of spent fuel.*

If the core facilities had not been shut down in July 2007, *the DPRK could have produced enough additional plutonium for several more nuclear weapons. Department of Energy experts found no indications that the site was at the end of its operational life.*

IAEA Official Questions Syria Reactor Video

That’s what it looks like in “this AFP”: story.

I had thought of most of the official’s arguments, but this one jumped out at me:

A *nuclear physicist close to the United Nations atomic watchdog* cast doubt Saturday on the veracity of US intelligence which claimed that Syria had been building a secret atomic reactor.

“When you look at the (US intelligence services) pictures, they show only raw construction,” an expert close to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told AFP on condition on anonymity.

*”It was just the shell of a site, and the walls did not look like the ones needed for a plutonium reactor.”*

*Walls of a plutonium reactor “need a lot of piping, there was nothing like that on the pictures,”* he added.

Still trying to wrap my head around this, in between doing other things.

Syria Reactor Video


The BBC has “posted”: what looks to be the CIA video briefing about the Syrian nuclear reactor that, as the briefing puts it (with an artful use of the passive voice), “was destroyed in September 2007.” We would, by the way, have an easier way of confirming the CIA’s information about the structure had the unnamed entity not blown it up.

It looks persuasive, but I need to think about it some more. I will note that the video says nothing about a reprocessing facility, without which the Pu contained in the spent fuel means dick.

For its part, the IAEA is a “bit annoyed”: ElBaradei

says the US gave his organisation its evidence about the Syrian reactor only on the same day that it briefed legislators on Capitol Hill.

A statement from the IAEA says that Dr ElBaradei “deplores the fact that this information was not provided to the agency in a timely manner”. It is now going to investigate further.

USG Sochi Non-Paper

I thought I’d mention that “NPEC”: released full text of a non-paper titled “_International Finance and Investment for Nuclear Power Projects in Developing Countries: Implementation of the U.S.-Russia Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation_,” (“available here”: which was apparently circulated by U.S. officials at the Bush-Putin Sochi meeting in April. The non-paper, which is undated, but seems to have been written between July 2007 and February 2008, makes for quite an interesting read.

Full text of the July 2007 _U.S.-Russia Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation: Joint Actions_ is “available here”: Since we are on the subject, I should note that I found the text of the Sochi “Strategic Framework Declaration”: quite positive in the sense that the White House promised to “work to bring into force” the U.S.-Russian bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. We’ll just have to wait and see…

T Friedman Gets Pied

bq. Not everyone agrees with Friedman’s vision that innovation is the path to climate and energy salvation. *Just seconds into his speech, he was interrupted by two environmental activists, who stormed the stage shortly after Friedman stepped up to the microphone, tossing two paper plates loaded with shamrock-colored whipped cream at him.*

[“ProJo”: via “HuffPo”: and “Eschaton.”: ]

The students didn’t pie him for the past column on nonproliferation that I mocked “a while back”: So I feel duty-bound to point it out again. I will reiterate that

bq. People who know about proliferation would not write that “the solution [to proliferation] is so ridiculously obvious there isn’t much to say.”