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Syria Clears Bombing Site In Record Time

Posted in Military, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 071026 by romeosierraecho

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Israel bombed something in northern Syria on September 6 (The Economist). What exactly Israel bombed has been a source of grand speculation in the world press ever since. Now it appears that the most likely target was a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor under construction, possibly of North Korean design. That reactor is “large enough to make about one nuclear weapon’s worth of plutonium each year,” according to The Institute For Science And International Security (ISIS *) analysis.

ISIS acquired DigitalGlobe and Spot Image imagery of the suspected bombing site, and compared the data in three briefs (1, 2, 3). The results were reported worldwide (New York Times, Washington Post, BBC News, Jerusalem Post).

The site is clearly visible in its pre-bombing state on Google Earth (kml 35°42’27.68″N 39°49’58.81″E) from Spot Image data from 2007. Also, the Yongbyon nuclear site in North Korea (GlobalSecurity) can be compared on Google Earth (kml 39°47’50.27″N 125°45’17.27″E – note cooling tower ~185m SSE from the coordinates).

Syria bombing site (source: Google Earth 071027, DigitalGlobe imagery taken 5-28 August, 2007)The Syrian site was in its infancy, as it only had two buildings plus the potential pump station on the river bank. Curiously, the long secondary building visible in the ISIS images dated August 10, 2007 does not exist in the Google Earth imagery (highlighted with a red circle in the image on the right). This suggests that the GE data is from earlier this year, and that the site was in active development prior to the bombing. Ogle Earth has created a high-resolution kml overlay which makes comparing the images easier.

* The Washington, D.C. -based ISIS is “… a non-profit, non-partisan institution dedicated to informing the public about science and policy issues affecting international security. Its efforts focus on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, bringing about greater transparency of nuclear activities worldwide, and achieving deep reductions in nuclear arsenals.”