Update From The Pencil Factory

“Reuters reports”:http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKTRE51N62E20090224?pageNumber=2&sp=true that the IAEA’s Olli Heinonen has given a briefing to diplomats about al-Kibar’s Pencil Box — you know, the place in Syria where they found “traces of uranium and graphite”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1876/graphite.

The briefing contained the following statement: “Eighty particles of uranium oxide is significant.”

So does “uranium oxide” mean that we are looking at “cross-contamination”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1865/more-than-you-wanted-to-know-about-magnox from U3O8 (i.e., yellowcake), UO3, or UO2 at another facility, as I’ve suggested, and not from “Magnox fuel”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2106/new-evidence-of-nork-syria-link located onsite, as James has suggested?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t give us much ability to distinguish between these two possibilities. As this “handy cheat sheet”:http://web.ead.anl.gov/uranium/guide/ucompound/forms/index.cfm from Argonne National Laboratory explains, uranium metal (such as that found in Magnox fuel) “is subject to surface oxidation. It tarnishes in air, with the oxide film preventing further oxidation of massive metal at room temperature.”

Microscopic particles would presumably oxidize all the way through. In other words, whatever they might have been part of before the bombs hit the building, they’re now infinitesimal specks of rust.

At the same meeting in Vienna, the “NY Times reports”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/world/middleeast/25syria.html, a Syrian diplomat stated that the replacement building is missile-related:

“He made a reference to a missile, one missile,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under usual diplomatic protocol.

Thanks to my impeccable clandestine sources, I can now bring to you an exclusive ground-truth photograph recently taken near the site.


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