Paving, Penetrators and the Parchin Probe: Issues in Environmental Sampling by the IAEA

I am extremely pleased to introduce another guest post from good friend of ACL, Professor Yousaf Butt, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  Yousaf has produced what I think is an extremely important technical appraisal of a number of issues connected both with the Parchin military site in Iran, and the Al Kibar site in Syria, both of which have been targeted for scrutiny by the IAEA.  Yousaf brings to this analysis his very impressive qualifications and scientific expertise (seriously, look it up here, Yousaf is a seriously well qualified nuclear physicist – not just another self-styled wonk with a degree in policy studies who likes to talk about missiles and nukes).  For us lawyers, this kind of expert technical appraisal is vital for understanding the underlying technical issues that are the subject of legal regulation. I plan to follow up Yousaf’s post in the next day or so with a post of my own on the legal implications of his analysis. But for now, enjoy!

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Paving, Penetrators and the Parchin Probe: Issues in Environmental Sampling by the IAEA

 By: Yousaf Butt

 Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, is research professor and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Last week, the IAEA released a new report on Iran, where it again found Iran in compliance with its safeguards agreement by explicitly stating “the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.” As former UK ambassador to the IAEA, Peter Jenkins, and I mentioned in a recent Reuters piece: “Iran is now in compliance.” Tehran has explained or corrected every substantiated and lawful issue, as confirmed by the Agency in 2008.

The IAEA has, however, raised a number of other subjective “concerns” that go beyond the letter of the Safeguards Agreement. It would be nice of Iran to cooperate with these extra-judicial requests but it is certainly under no legal obligation to do so.

For instance, the IAEA says it has secret information (which it will not share, even with Iran) from a member state’s intelligence agency indicating that Iran may have constructed a large steel chamber in a building for conducting conventional high explosives experiments—some of which may have involved natural (not enriched) uranium—which could be associated with a secret program to do research on nuclear bombs.  As former IAEA inspector and veteran nuclear weapons engineer Robert Kelley explains in an expert report the whole scenario is a bit of a stretch from a technical standpoint:

A chamber such as the one claimed to be in the building is neither necessary nor particularly useful for developing a first-generation nuclear weapon. Such development tests have normally been done outdoors for decades.

The latest concern voiced by the IAEA (and its fundee ISIS)  has to do with the leveling/paving work at the military base at Parchin. The new allegations by the ISIS group are that:

Iran continues to conduct activities at the suspect Parchin site that will further complicate the verification work of the IAEA. According to the IAEA’s report, “Iran has conducted further spreading, leveling and compacting of material over most of the site, a significant proportion of which it has also asphalted.” ISIS’s satellite imagery brief released today illuminates Iran’s work at the site and appears to confirm these paving and asphalting activities. The Parchin site is the location of a test chamber that is suspected of being used for containing high explosives tests related to nuclear weapons development. Iran began altering the buildings at this site and the site itself during the spring of 2012, shortly after the IAEA requested access to this site. The IAEA in this latest safeguards report states that “satellite imagery available to the Agency [IAEA] for the period from February 2005 to January 2012 shows virtually no activity at or near the building housing the containment vessel (chamber building). Since the Agency’s first request for access to this location, however, satellite imagery shows that extensive activities and resultant changes have taken place at this location.

Is this paving work at Parchin – which is clearly not over “most of the site” as alleged by ISIS — really a problem for the IAEA?

As I explain below, there is no issue here mainly because any samples of interest to pick up trace amounts of uranium would normally be taken from inside buildings. (Naturally occurring uranium complicates outdoors environmental sampling: Even though it is possible to tell apart man-modified uranium from naturally occurring oxides, it is hard to segregate interesting particles using sensitive IAEA techniques.)  And, in any case, there is plenty of undisturbed ground adjacent to the building that the IAEA could still take environmental samples from if — for some reason — they wanted to do this. As an expert SIPRI report concluded earlier this year:

The fact that the building’s immediate vicinity has been largely untouched on the west side strongly suggests that the purpose of the earth-moving operations was for construction and renovation work and not for ‘sanitizing’ the site by covering up contamination. In any event, the IAEA should not be collecting samples of dirt or dead vegetation to detect tiny uranium traces.

Additionally, ISIS has propagated the technically ill-informed suggestion that tungsten could have been used as a surrogate for unenriched uranium in such tests. There are at least two problems with that scenario:

(1) Tungsten is a very hard brittle material that melts at over 3400 C.  In fact it is virtually impossible to melt tungsten and cast it into precise shapes and it is almost impossible to machine.  So tungsten precision parts are made by pressing very pure tungsten powder in very precise molds so that the resulting shapes don’t need to be machined.  If someone is using tungsten as a surrogate for testing uranium bomb parts they must be very precise in dimensions so this procedure must be used.  It is a major industrial development project in its own right. Furthermore, tungsten has very different mechanical properties from uranium in every regard except for density.  So it is a lousy surrogate for uranium in a test relevant to possible nuclear weaponization studies.  The results of such a test will be largely meaningless.

(2) Tungsten is not a nuclear material and, unlike uranium, there is no need for Iran to declare what it is doing with tungsten, so there would be no legal safeguards issue even if Iran were to have done implosion tests with tungsten or other non-fissile material.

Before delving into further technical issues regarding the Parchin site in Iran, let’s examine the related mishandling and misreporting of the IAEA’s environmental sampling in Syria, since it is relevant to judging the IAEA’s competency, impartiality and professionalism in such environmental sampling.

In 2008, the IAEA inspected a site in Syria believed to be an undeclared nuclear reactor, which had been bombed by the Israeli Air Force a year earlier. Syria had bulldozed the site and demolished a building there before the IAEA team arrived. Nevertheless, the inspectors found several microscopic man-modified uranium particles in the soil around the site, as well as in an adjacent building. These particles could be from either uranium metal fuel for a reactor, or they could be from natural uranium metal casings for a deep, earth-penetrating bomb, such as those used in the Israeli raid.

Deeply penetrating earth bombs require a very strong and very heavy casing that allows the bomb to penetrate through concrete shields, concrete roofs, hard rock and many meters of soil.  These bombs are designed to penetrate deeply into the earth, for example into a bunker, an underground facility or a tunnel.  They are designed to protect the explosive part of the bomb until it is deep in the earth, for example in a basement or the bottom of a nuclear reactor core.  Tungsten and very strong steel casings are known to be used in these deeply earth penetrating bombs.  Uranium metal would be even better than these two materials and has been proposed by defense contractors in the US, but its use in the US or other countries is unknown.

The strength and material properties of uranium metal are exactly equivalent whether the uranium is natural or depleted.  Unfortunately, the term “depleted uranium munitions” came into common use because the US used large amounts of scrap depleted uranium in the weapons described above.  This has led some non-technical observers to believe that only depleted uranium can be and is used in penetrating weapons.  This is false.  Natural uranium is equally effective and can be used in the same applications.  The correct term would be “uranium metal munitions.” But the term “depleted uranium” has, unfortunately, stuck.

So, despite the fact that the IAEA’s detection of the man-modified natural uranium particles could not be tied to either uranium nuclear reactor fuel or to the ordnance used in the Israeli raid — or some other source — with high confidence, the IAEA used the results of its environmental inspections to attempt to implicate Syria in wrongdoing. In its 2008 report the IAEA stated:

Analysis of the environmental samples taken from the Dair Alzour site carried out by a number of the Agency’s Network of Analytical Laboratories revealed a significant number of natural uranium particles. The analysis of these particles indicates that the uranium is anthropogenic, i.e. that the material was produced as a result of chemical processing. As indicated above, Syria stated that the only explanation for these particles was that they were contained in the missiles used to destroy the building.

In a 2011 follow-on report the IAEA observed that “Syria has also maintained that the particles of anthropogenic natural uranium found in samples taken during the Agency’s June 2008 visit to the Dair Alzour site originated from the missiles used to destroy the building,” but that, “the Agency has assessed that the probability that the particles originated from the missiles used to destroy the building is low.”

The report went on:

The Agency also assessed that there is a low probability that the particles were introduced by aerial dispersion. The presence of such uranium particles points to the possibility of nuclear related activities at the site and adds to questions concerning the nature of the destroyed building. Syria has yet to provide satisfactory explanations for the origin and presence of these particles. In this context, information yet to be provided by Israel might be helpful in clarifying the matter. [emphasis added]

In fact, the information was never provided by Israel, so it is impossible to conclude that the man-modified uranium particles could not have come from Israeli ordnance. It would have been straightforward to clear up the true origin of the detected particles had Israel been more forthcoming about the composition of the materials used in its ordnance. Although depleted uranium is used in some earth-penetrating ordnance, so is natural uranium. However, Israel waved off the IAEA’s requests to give the Agency more information. And unlike with Iran and Syria, the IAEA has not insisted that Israel provide it with the further necessary forensic evidence.

The uranium particles detected by IAEA do not rule out the use of natural uranium earth penetrators nor do they confirm them.  The particles neither confirm the presence of natural uranium fuel nor do they exclude it.  Absent further information on the composition of the Israeli ordnance used, the uranium particles detected by the IAEA don’t prove anything. If anything, the burden of proof now falls on Israel to confirm that the ordnance used could not have been the source of the particles.

There is, thus, reason to be very skeptical of the IAEA’s unfounded implication that “[t]he presence of such uranium particles points to the possibility of nuclear related activities at the site,” or that the “probability that the particles originated from the missiles used to destroy the building is low.”

A US Intelligence briefing following the raid said quite clearly that the “reactor was destroyed in an Israeli air strike early in the morning of 6 September 2007 as it was nearing completion but before it had been operated and before it was charged with uranium fuel.” [emphasis added]  And a detailed Spiegel report mentioned that the uranium fuel had likely just arrived in country a few months before.  As the putative reactor was still under construction, the US intelligence report that the reactor was unfueled at the time of the attack makes complete sense. It would be folly to put delicate fuel rods in a building where construction was still underway.

Thus, in Syria’s case the IAEA’s environmental sampling was completely inconclusive, but nevertheless improperly used to try to implicate Syria in wrongdoing even before other alternative explanations were eliminated.  It also showed that the sensitive particle sampling techniques used by the IAEA are powerful enough to detect uranium — whatever the true source – even after a site has been bulldozed and incompletely sanitized.

Returning to the issue of Iran’s Parchin site, environmental sampling – should it be needed — could still be done in the large areas that are undisturbed immediately adjacent to the building of interest. Thus the issue of paving and bulldozing only east of the building is a red-herring. In any case, what would normally be done to sample for past traces of uranium would be to take swipes from inside the building or associated nearby buildings, not outside. So reports about roads, paving etc. – especially when undisturbed areas abound nearby – is technically not meaningful.

The ISIS group has further confused the issue by implying that uranium would be used in the alleged hemispherical tests employed to gauge the symmetry of the conventional explosive shockwave. Regarding the possible alleged tests, ISIS states that one might be a, “test to ascertain the symmetry of an imploding hemispherical shell of high explosives, surrounding a natural uranium metal hemisphere, in a scaled down experiment of an implosion package.”

However, the point of the alleged hemisphere test is to monitor the light breakout as the conventional explosive shock wave breaks through the inside surface of the high explosive hemisphere.  The time spread of the light bursts tells one about the symmetry of the implosion, and whether or not everything is precisely designed and timed properly.  If the light bursts have a large time spread in break-out then this implies that the lighting of the outside of the sphere is not adequately precise in time or that the high explosive itself is not adequately homogenous.

If there is uranium – or any other metal or material — inside the explosive hemispherical shell setup, it actually interferes with the test. It would impede detecting the light flashes of the shock wave breakout. That is the reason metal is not used on the inside of a hemispherical light-timing test, contrary to what ISIS asserts above.

So the excruciating detail in paragraph 43 in the Annex of the November 2011 IAEA report, and the technically confused work by ISIS, give the illusion of technical expertise but are, in fact, irrelevant to the use of uranium – or any other metal — in a cylinder-contained test in a hemispherical geometry, such as that alleged to have taken place at Parchin.

Paragraph 43 of the IAEA report says:

43. Information provided to the Agency by the same Member State referred to in the previous paragraph describes the multipoint initiation concept referred to above as being used by Iran in at least one large scale experiment in 2003 to initiate a high explosive charge in the form of a hemispherical shell. According to that information, during that experiment, the internal hemispherical curved surface of the high explosive charge was monitored using a large number of optical fibre cables, and the light output of the explosive upon detonation was recorded with a high speed streak camera. It should be noted that the dimensions of the initiation system and the explosives used with it were consistent with the dimensions for the new payload which, according to the alleged studies documentation, were given to the engineers who were studying how to integrate the new payload into the chamber of the Shahab 3 missile re-entry vehicle (Project 111) (see Section C.11 below). Further information provided to the Agency by the same Member State indicates that the large scale high explosive experiments were conducted by Iran in the region of Marivan. [emphasis added]

What about the alleged possible full spherical geometry tests? Such mock-up tests probe the implosion on a proxy material (such as natural uranium) but would not typically be carried out in a container, as is alleged at Parchin. In fact, as the paragraph above states, “information provided to the Agency by the same Member State indicates that the large scale high explosive experiments were conducted by Iran in the region of Marivan.” But Marivan is about 500 km from Parchin. And even if the alleged spherical tests were carried out in the alleged chamber at Parchin, partial paving of one section of ground only on side of the building of interest will not help hide the evidence – such evidence, in any case, would again not be sought outside the building but inside.

As the expert SIPRI report states: “[t]he alleged chamber at Parchin is too large for the initiator tests and too small for a full-scale explosion. If it exists at all, it is a white elephant.”

Former IAEA inspector and weapons engineer, Robert Kelley, has summed up the concerns about the IAEA’s professionalism in environmental sampling:

Outside the area of materials accountancy, in the inspection of facilities deemed to be part of a suspect nuclear program, the IAEA has drifted far from its core competencies. In Syria, for example, the IAEA was successful in collecting uranium particles at a site that had been “sanitized.” But then the IAEA cavalierly dismissed Syrian explanations that the natural uranium particles found at a bombed suspect site came from Israeli missiles. The agency’s claims that the particles are not of the correct isotopic and chemical composition for missiles, displays an appalling lack of technical knowledge about military munitions based on information from questionable sources.  If the IAEA is to be respected it must get proper technical advice.  For example deep earth penetrating bombs, not missiles were used in Syria.

[…]

Some of the experiments described by the IAEA do not and cannot use uranium. The results would be inconclusive if they did. So the basis for the IAEA’s requests continues to be opaque. The timeline for the alleged experiments is also highly suspect, with claims that massive experimental facilities had been fabricated even before they had been designed, according to the available information. The IAEA work to date, including the mischaracterization of satellite images of Parchin, is more consistent with an IAEA agenda to target Iran than of technical analysis. [emphasis added]

Let’s recall that the IAEA has already visited Parchin twice in 2005 and found nothing  – although they did not go to the specific area they are now interested in. However, the IAEA could have gone to that area even in 2005 – they simply chose to go to other sites on the military base. As the IAEA report at the time summarized:

The Agency was given free access to those buildings and their surroundings and was allowed to take environmental samples, the results of which did not indicate the presence of nuclear material, nor did the Agency see any relevant dual use equipment or materials in the locations visited.

When the IAEA last went to Parchin, Olli Heinonen was head of IAEA safeguards and led the inspections – the methodology for choosing which buildings to inspect is described in an excellent Christian Science Monitor article which is worth reading in its entirety, but I quote the relevant bits:

At the time, it[Parchin] was divided into four geographical sectors by the Iranians. Using satellite and other data, inspectors were allowed by the Iranians to choose any sector, and then to visit any building inside that sector. Those 2005 inspections included more than five buildings each, and soil and environmental sampling. They yielded nothing suspicious, but did not include the building now of interest to the IAEA.

The selection [of target buildings] did not take place in advance, it took place just when we arrived, so all of Parchin was available,” recalls Heinonen, who led those past inspections. “When we drove there and arrived, we told them which building.

Would the Iranians really have risked exposing some nefarious nuclear weapons-related work at Parchin by making all of Parchin available to the IAEA in 2005? At that time, Iran had to assume that the IAEA would choose the alleged chamber building to inspect, but satellite imagery shows no effort to sanitize the site in 2005.

In the same article Heinonen also explains why the current IAEA approach is deeply, logically flawed:

Also unusual is how open and specific the IAEA has been about what exactly it wants to see, which could yield doubts about the credibility of any eventual inspection.“I’m puzzled that the IAEA wants to in this case specify the building in advance, because you end up with this awkward situation,” says Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s head of safeguards until mid-2010.

“First of all, if it gets delayed it can be sanitized. And it’s not very good for Iran. Let’s assume [inspectors] finally get there and they find nothing. People will say, ‘Oh, it’s because Iran has sanitized it,’” says Mr. Heinonen, who is now at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. “But in reality it may have not been sanitized. Iran is also a loser in that case. I don’t know why [the IAEA] approach it this way, which was not a standard practice…”

Unfortunately, this is exactly what seems to be happening now: On May 29th, Reuters reported that the IAEA, “acknowledged on Wednesday it might not find anything if allowed access to an Iranian military facility [Parchin]….Herman Nackaerts, deputy director general of the IAEA, made the comment during a closed-door briefing where he showed satellite imagery indicating Iran had now partly paved the site…”

This is clearly untrue for the reasons described above: sample swipes would normally be taken from inside the building of interest, and adjacent buildings – and even if outdoors sampling was needed it could be gathered from the large undisturbed area west of the building. The IAEA appears to be laying the groundwork for a false story that if they do not find anything at Parchin, it is because Iran “sanitized” the place – whereas this is simply untrue from a technical perspective for the reasons given above. That way, even if the IAEA is allowed access to Parchin, and finds nothing, the Agency will still be free to make all the allegations they want about what went on there. So it appears, Iran will be damned if it cooperates with the Agency, and damned if it doesn’t.

IAEA members states ought not to cooperate with the Agency in ad hoc inspections unless a proper, logical and technically-sound structured approach to inspections is agreed-upon beforehand – and, until the Agency has properly explained, or retracted, its unprofessional handling of the Syrian case.

To reiterate: the partial paving work outdoors at the Parchin military base in Iran does not meaningfully interfere with the IAEA’s ability to gather any traces of man-modified uranium that may exist – especially indoors, but also outdoors.

As for the typically tendentious reporting on this topic, the words of Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, bear repeating:

Hans Blix, former chief of the IAEA and later of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, has also expressed surprise at the focus on Parchin, as a military base that inspectors had been to before.

“Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site,” Mr. Blix told Al Jazeera English… “In a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be.” [emphasis added]

One of the reasons that Dr. Blix says that is because normally the IAEA does not have the legal authority to inspect undeclared non-nuclear-materials related facilities, in a nation – like Iran — that has not ratified the Additional Protocol. The IAEA can choose to call for arbitration in its dispute with Iran, as specified in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, but they have not done that. The arbitration procedure is spelled out in the safeguards agreement:

Any dispute arising out of the interpretation or application of this Agreement, except a dispute  with regard to a finding by the Board under Article 19 or an action taken by the Board pursuant to such  a finding, which is not settled by negotiation or another procedure agreed to by the Government of Iran  and the Agency shall, at the request of either, be submitted to an arbitral tribunal composed as follows:  the Government of Iran and the Agency shall each designate one arbitrator, and the two arbitrators so  designated shall elect a third, who shall be the Chairman. If, within thirty days of the request for arbitration, either the Government of Iran or the Agency has not designated an arbitrator, either the Government of Iran or the Agency may request the President of the International Court of Justice to appoint an arbitrator.

The IAEA should take advantage of this clause to quickly resolve its dispute with Tehran over access to the Parchin military base. Continued IAEA deadlock over Parchin is derailing progress in the broader nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1.

Lastly, the recent report from the associated press that about 80% of the IAEA’s intelligence against Iran is from the US, only strengthens the perception of bias and politicization at the Agency. The Agency should more thoroughly vet the evidence to make sure it is of the highest quality.


40 Comments on “Paving, Penetrators and the Parchin Probe: Issues in Environmental Sampling by the IAEA”

  1. Reginald Bartholomew III says:

    “The IAEA appears to be laying the groundwork for a false story that if they do not find anything at Parchin, it is because Iran “sanitized” the place – whereas this is simply untrue from a technical perspective for the reasons given above. That way, even if the IAEA is allowed access to Parchin, and finds nothing, the Agency will still be free to make all the allegations they want about what went on there. So it appears, Iran will be damned if it cooperates with the Agency, and damned if it doesn’t.”

    That appears to be the nub of it, eh?

  2. Don Bacon says:

    If Iran used natural rock asphalt containing trace uranium at Parchin, it’d be in big trouble in any inspection. It’d be ‘Coalition of the Willing’ time again.

    But in any aerial attack on Iran nuclear facilities, it’s be “Good-Bye Dubai. Bombing Iran’s Nuclear Facilities Would Leave the Entire Gulf States Region Virtually Uninhabitable” according to this article.
    http://lewrockwell.com/orig14/stone1.1.1.html

  3. yousaf says:

    Some more info:

    http://217.25.54.55/en/News/80678875/Politic/IAEA_counter-claim_issued_versus_IAEA_claim_on_Iran

    QUOTE:

    “If that argument had truly been made by Mr. Nacartes, reply to that was recently made by the Head of IAEA Environment Labs Stephan Fought on Wednesday.

    According to IRNA, Fought who works at Seibersdorf Laboratories on the outskirts of the Austrian capital city believes that the remainders of radioactive activities cannot be totally wiped off.”

    • yousaf says:

      I think IRNA mis-spelled his name: should be Stephan Vogt?

      e.g. from REUTERS:

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/01/us-nuclear-iaea-laboratory-idUSBRE94005W20130501

      Tell-tale particles could not be removed completely from a facility where uranium was used, said Stephan Vogt, a senior IAEA official, who emphasized that he was speaking generally and not specifically about Iran or Parchin.

      “You cannot get rid of them by cleaning, you cannot dilute them to the extent that we will not be able to pick them up. It is just a matter of time,” Vogt, who heads the IAEA’s Environmental Sample Laboratory, said.

      “We won’t find it maybe the first time we go there,” he said. But, “the more often we go, the higher the probability that we will pick up (traces) in some corner, at some table, in some plumbing”.

      Former chief IAEA inspector Olli Heinonen said any attempt by Iran to purge Parchin of clues would make the agency’s task considerably harder, but “complete sanitization is very difficult to achieve if nuclear materials were actually used”.

      Like others at the IAEA’s Seibersdorf laboratory complex outside the Austrian capital, Vogt was not authorized to discuss Iran, Syria or any other specific cases which have made the agency a key player in international nuclear diplomacy.

      But he made clear his confidence in the sophisticated techniques at the scientists’ disposal, including a new 3.8 million euro ($5 million) instrument to study tiny particles.

      • Cyrus says:

        It should be pointed out that the IAEA already visited Parchin, twice, and took environmental samples which found nothing extraordinary there. Robert Kelley pointed out that if nuclear material had been used in the alleged “chamber” then the contamination would have been spread far and wide.

        However what’s really interesting is the wider rhetorical framework of this debate, wherein ISIS and the anonymous intelligence agencies come up with imaginary scenarios of what “could” have happened in Iran, and then Iran is somehow expected to PROVE that those imaginary events did NOT happen. In short, it is demanded that Iran prove a negative. The fact that there’s no actual evidence to support the allegations in the first place is deemed irrelevant and worse, neither Iran nor the IAEA have actually been permitted to see the evidence that Iran is supposed to refute. And even when Iran does allow more instrusive inspections which debunk the speculation, we are simply treated to new speculation about new locations.

        Case in point: After the first inspections of Parchin by the IAEA turned up zilch, did ISIS and Albright apologize for their wild speculation about the place and withdraw their claims? No, instead they simply demanded yet more inspections of yet another site in Parchin. All this was based on nothing more than the speculation by Albright and ISIS that the site was a “logical candidate” for secret nuclear weapons work. Just read their arguments yourself here: http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iran/parchin.html

        Lets remember that in Aug 2007, Iran and the IAEA concluded a “Modalities Agreement” which specified all outstanding issues that had to be resolved, and set out a timeline to resolve them ( though the US and EU-3 vehemently objected to this and Elbaradei was publicly castigated by Sec of State Rice and the Israelis who called him “pro-Iranian”) The Nov 2007 report stated that some of the issues had been cleared up. Just two weeks prior to the issuance of the Feb 2008 IAEA report the US finally presented PARTIALLY the “Allged Studies” evidence that it had been shopping around for a while, in order to prevent the IAEA from issuing a clean bill of health to Iran.

      • Don Bacon says:

        “We won’t find it maybe the first time we go there,” he said. But, “the more often we go, the higher the probability that we will pick up (traces) in some corner, at some table, in some plumbing”.

        **the more often we go . .**

        So once or twice isn’t enough, they need to go many times which gives them more opportunity to plant something and/or get some more scientists’ names.

        This must be on Iranians’ minds too, which is why they don’t permit it. Call it a lack of trust, well founded, as I recall Yousaf has pointed out previously.

  4. […] constant chatter about the upcoming presidential election as campaigns heat up.  There are overhyped reports and baseless accusations about Iran’s nuclear program. The United States wants desperately, per the demands of their […]

  5. Reginald Bartholomew III says:

    This seems to be important but overlooked in media who think ISIS is unbiased source of info:

    “….latest concern voiced by the IAEA (and its fundee ISIS) ”

    So ISIS gets money from IAEA? Makes sense they always side with IAEA in disputes with signatory states.

    But what is really odd if you follow the link:

    http://isis-online.org/about/funders/

    is that the otherwise pretty solid Ploughshares group also funds the jokers at ISIS?

    Anyone know why?

    • Nick says:

      These are the funders that Albright wants the world to know. I think WINEP, AIPAC, and a few other DC anti Iran think tanks are also supporting him, not to mention dubious sources that give him hints as to where to look for on the publicly available satellite images. It is shocking that Cirincione has agreed for Ploughshare to be a funder.

  6. Marianne says:

    With respect to the analysis of uranium particles collected in Syria: it is well-known that analysis of characteristics such as isotopic and elemental composition, stoichiometry, morphology, and size can distinguish between uranium particles that are naturally occurring, those resulting from the use of uranium munitions, emanating from enrichment plants, from reprocessing, or from nuclear fuel. For example, a small concentration of titanium in a uranium particle is indicative of the particle arising from a uranium munition that used an alloy of uranium and titanium, whereas titanium is not generally used, if at all, in nuclear fuel cycle activities.

    Mr. Butt should explain why he dismisses the results from the IAEA’s network of analytical laboratories, which are operated by Member States, not the IAEA, and the IAEA. He could only do so if it is not credible to distinguish the origin of uranium particles with some degree of confidence. But it is credible, so Mr. Butt’s dismissal is suspect.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Welcome back, Marianne, and thanks for your comment. I’ll let Yousaf and other technical types respond directly to it. You do seem to be someone of wide knowledge and interest in this area. I hope you’ll add your thoughts to other posts as well.
      Dan

    • bob kelley says:

      Marianne
      This is a very interesting post. It sounds like you have some insider knowledge, like on what alloying elements were found, and I hope you will share!

      Yousaf Butt does not criticize the results reported by the Seibersdorf Laboratories or the Network of Analytical Laboratories contracted by IAEA. In fact he points out that the sampling techniques employed by inspectors, developed by Seibersdorf, are extremely powerful and have produced interesting results. His thesis is that Seibersdorf is ready to take on Parchin. He is criticizing the analysis in Syria and the style of reporting.

      A small part of what is known publicly about the Syrian sampling was released in the official IAEA Board reports but far more has come out in informal briefings by IAEA officials to trusted friends and media. So what we have is a mishmash of information that presents highly biased explanations.

      For example, you mention titanium. Good point. IAEA has not mentioned titanium or any other alloying element so we don’t know if it was present or not. No one else is mentioning it either until now so it is a bit of a red herring. If it were present, it would probably be a sign of a tank-fired armor penetrating munition that needs exceptional strength and hardness to penetrate another tank’s armor. But as everyone outside the beltway knows, you would not use a tank round to destroy a massive concrete structure and no one is saying the attackers did. So with or without titanium, it is a null result. But you are right in saying that military alloying elements would eliminate the fuel cycle as a source.

      IAEA did report they found particles of stainless steel consistent with a nuclear reactor (as well as cars, bomb parts, cooking utensils and toys.) Another null result. (Board report May 2011)

      Other alloying elements might be present in a massive earth penetrator with a uranium metal nose but none are reported. And of course the uranium metal could be depleted or natural. Natural was reported by IAEA and that is also a null result. Not bad reporting by Seibersdorf; faulty analysis.

      On that point IAEA says they gave samples from Al Kibar to several analytical laboratories but they do not say how many returned any results or provided opinions. You need to learn to read IAEA reports very carefully. They are parsed very carefully to provide as little information as possible while sounding authoritative. It is very possible that only one laboratory reported any results but again you cannot tell this from the Board reports. (Nov 2008 Board)

      From unofficial briefings by IAEA officials, we know that the option of penetrating munitions was dismissed on the basis that the particles found had the wrong morphology for a penetrator. Unfortunately this result is again based on the tank-on-tank armor scenario which is not relevant to Al Kibar. Instead they apparently found a few particles of varying oxygen stoichiometry consistent with weathered bits of uranium metal. That is consistent with metal fuel (from a reactor that was not yet fueled according to the USG) or from a massive earth penetrator. Again a null result based on faulty analysis and not Seibersdorf reporting.

      And IAEA has never revealed whether all the particle samples were collected under strict regimes of collection using two inspectors. If these procedures were not followed cross contamination is very possible and would make the results suspect. Any variation from established procedures should be the Board reports.

      Butt has done an excellent job of reminding us of faulty analysis in 2003, based upon pseudo-science and prejudice. It is prudent to remember that in the intervening 10 years we should have learned to be constructively critical of partial and leaked information. IAEA has leaked so much of this story that it can hardly hurt to put all the sampling results into the public domain. Some of the social media results may be amusing but in the long run we are much more likely to get a more accurate result when many experts can weigh in.

    • yousaf says:

      I endorse everything Bob Kelley said.

      Could Marianne provide us more information on what the IAEA found? Otherwise it is hearsay from someone who is (without last name) just another anonymous poster.

      As I mention in my post, it would be very useful for Israel to come clean about the composition of the munitions it used. Why is Marianne and the IAEA not concerned about certain IAEA member states like Israel not cooperating with the IAEA investigations and highly concerned about other states? Is the IAEA and Marianne biased and politicized?

      I agree with the lead scientist at IAEA’s Seibersdorf laboratory, Stephan Vogt and Olli Heinonen:

      e.g. from REUTERS:

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/01/us-nuclear-iaea-laboratory-idUSBRE94005W20130501

      Tell-tale particles could not be removed completely from a facility where uranium was used, said Stephan Vogt, a senior IAEA official, who emphasized that he was speaking generally and not specifically about Iran or Parchin.

      “You cannot get rid of them by cleaning, you cannot dilute them to the extent that we will not be able to pick them up. It is just a matter of time,” Vogt, who heads the IAEA’s Environmental Sample Laboratory, said.

      [.................................]

      Former chief IAEA inspector Olli Heinonen said any attempt by Iran to purge Parchin of clues would make the agency’s task considerably harder, but “complete sanitization is very difficult to achieve if nuclear materials were actually used”.
      ===============

      So what ISIS and IAEA management are now saying about paving at Parchin being a hindrance is false.

  7. Marianne says:

    Just a few points:

    1. I have no insider knowledge.
    2. It is easy to locate references to the use of about 0.1% Ti in U metal to produce alloys that have desired mechanical characteristics that are superior to U metal. (Try Los Alamos ,LA-5002, 1972.) Easy also to find references to this alloy’s use in depleted U munitions. I have no idea what kind of munitions would be used to destroy a reactor. But if U is used, it seems plausible to me that the munition designer would use a U alloy to obtain desired characteristics.
    3. Perhaps Mr. Butt is just sloppy with his words, but when he states that the IAEA’s conclusions are “completely unfounded,” or that “they could not be tied” to nuclear fuel or ordnance; or “completely inconclusive,” he is not just criticizing the analysis ad the style of reporting. He is calling into question both the credibility of the results and even whether measurement techniques can lead to the distinctions the IAEA is making. In that he is wrong.
    4. Given the advanced state of construction of the reactor, it’s not credible to call it “folly” to store fuel elements there. They are not particularly delicate and could be carefully packaged if they were.
    5. He also states that the results were “improperly used.” That cannot be a well-founded assertion. In any case, there is ample evidence that Syria violated its safeguards agreement by failing to report the construction of a reactor.
    6. One must acknowledge that the information reported in the IAEA reports is sparse, to say the least. You can question whether the paucity of information is appropriate or not. Feel free.

    • yousaf says:

      1. OK. Would be good if you posted your full name so we know who you really are.

      2. You brought up Ti. I have no information on presence or lack of Ti, so your whole aside is superfluous unless you know whether or Ti was detected.

      3. Perhaps “marianne” is sloppy with words when “she” says that I say “the IAEA’s conclusions are “completely unfounded,” ” whereas I say we should be “very skeptical of the IAEA’s unfounded implication….” because there is no real conclusion of the IAEA analysis just an attempt to imply IAEA found evidence of U that implicated Syria. The IAEA did not conclude anything with confidence.

      4. The US Intel reports that the reactor was unfueled and under construction.

      5. That is a well founded statement for the reasons given.

      6. The IAEA could have pressed Israel for more information on the composition of their ordnance and cleared up this debate in short order. The IAEA should come clean on why they did not press Israel for more information about the content of their ordnance. And Israel should come clean on the type of ordnance used and put the international community’s mind at ease.

      • Marianne says:

        Apologies for the misquotation. “Unfounded” is what you said, not “completely unfounded”.

        Video released by the CIA did not state that reactor was “under construction.” It states that it was not fueled, but that start up could begin at an time.

        Although circumstances are difficult at this time in Syria, it always had the opportunity to invite IAEA inspectors or third parties to visit the site. Its cooperation in clarifying the situation would have been the best means to put the international community’s mind at ease. There is little reason to turn to third parties. Transparency and cooperation is the best means to dispel doubts if there is nothing to hide. However, Syria chose to deny access and to take steps to conceal the nature of the facility. (Iran could also choose the route of transparency and cooperation, although it has not chosen to do so.)

        When states violate their legal obligations, as have Iran and Syria, in the first instance it is their credibility that should be questioned, not the IAEA’s.

        Nonetheless, the IAEA is not, nor should it be, immune from critical review or, even, skepticism. But that review needs to be soundly based.

      • yousaf says:

        Apology accepted.

        And, yes, the implication is completely unfounded.

        Why should Syria invite the IAEA again after their inconclusive evidence was used to spin a story implicating Syria?

        Israel should provide details on the content of its ordnance to put the international community’s mind at ease.

        As for Iran, please read the post and familiarize yourself with the law: As I state: “As former UK ambassador to the IAEA, Peter Jenkins, and I mentioned in a recent Reuters piece: “Iran is now in compliance.” Tehran has explained or corrected every substantiated and lawful issue, as confirmed by the Agency in 2008.”

        And:

        “IAEA members states ought not to cooperate with the Agency in ad hoc inspections unless a proper, logical and technically-sound structured approach to inspections is agreed-upon beforehand – and, until the Agency has properly explained, or retracted, its unprofessional handling of the Syrian case.”

        I suspect the origin of the IAEA bias and politicization is the fact that >65% of the IAEA budget comes from USG+allied governments. The USG alone provides ~25% of the IAEA budget. They are, evidently, getting good bang for the buck.

      • Reginald Bartholomew III says:

        If Krypotonite was found in the Syria analysis then we could suspect that maybe someone associated with Superman was at Al Kibar. But the IAEA did not say whether they found Kryptonite at Al Kibar. Similarly the IAEA did not say anything about Ti. (And, btw, Ti can be involved in fuel cycle activities so its presence or lack doesn’t prove anything)

        Marianne’s use of randomly mentioning Ti — while admitting no inside knowledge, and no knowledge of Ti’s lack or presence — seems to indicate she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Amano-Albright School of Wrongly Spinning Technical Bullshit to Confuse Issues.

    • bob kelley says:

      IAEA has said:
      7. The Agency’s current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles as the isotopic and chemical composition and the morphology of the particles are all inconsistent with what would be expected from the use of uranium based munitions. (Feb 2009 Board report)
      My point is that the Agency cannot make these statements. The natural isotopic finding is of no value at all since penetrators can be made of either depleted or natural material. (And I’m not quibbling about the word “missile”. We can chock that up to any number of mistakes.)
      The Director General is on-the record as saying that he has no knowledge of Israeli nuclear activities beyond what Israel provides under its very limited type-66 agreement.
      9. In respect of Israel, unlike States with comprehensive safeguards agreements in force6, the Agency’s verification activities and State’s declarations to the Agency are limited to material, equipment and facilities specified in its safeguards undertakings7. For 2009, the Secretariat concluded that for Israel, nuclear material, facilities or other items to which safeguards had been applied remained in peaceful activities8.
      10. In view of the above, the Secretariat is not in a position to provide to the Board of Governors and the General Conference a list of all those nuclear facilities which could be subject of safeguards pursuant to a comprehensive safeguards agreement in the event Israel would conclude such an agreement with the IAEA.
      11. The Secretariat is also not in a position either to provide information that could be relevant to Israel’s “nuclear capabilities” beyond what is included in this section of the report and in every year’s report to the Board of Governors by the Director General on safeguards implementation9.
      GOV/2010/49-GC(54)/14, Israeli nuclear capabilities
      Report by the Director General
      So if the IAEA has no idea if Israel has other nuclear capabilities, has no idea of any enrichment processes for uranium or knowledge whether or not Israel uses nuclear materials in conventional weapons, they cannot draw the conclusion above that the findings are inconsistent with uranium-based munitions. This conclusion is true only if IAEA assesses that US weapons were not used on Al Kibar.
      The IAEA cannot independently have knowledge of Israel’s nuclear program or what kind of munitions were used. IAEA would not be able to draw independent conclusions based on finding natural uranium isotopics alone because natural U might have been used in the munitions.

      Maybe the munitions contained no uranium. That is a hypothesis. The finding of uranium particles at Al Kibar could actually be the first confirmation that Israel is using uranium metal in munitions. Look at it that way. Don’t say the US does not use uranium because we are not sure they don’t and the US did not carry out the raid.
      My assertion remains that the finding of natural uranium particles at Al Kibar neither confirms the presence of uranium fuel or uranium metal penetrators, nor does it exclude either one. The IAEA should apply basic logic to the issue and conclude that absent other evidence, their conclusion is only applicable to US practice.

  8. Denis says:

    Another very informative post, Yousaf. Thank you. This whole “Parchin” issue is so fascinating. I endlessly obsess with it on multiple levels, as you are about to witness. The backspin you and Robt. Kelley have provided as to the technical issues has been invaluable in sorting out the ongoing patter of unsupported assertions from Amano, Jahn, and Albright. It is disappointing to find that el-Baradei was a part of this nonsense, too.

    I have a few nits to pick in an effort to clarify your points. I’ll put these up in separate comments if that’s OK so it looks like I’m not hogging Dan’s bandwidth.

    Issue #1: That site ain’t Parchin until the fat lady says it is.

    I don’t know about the folks in central Iran, but as for folks on these nuke control blogs the term “Parchin” stands not for the town of Parchin but for the Military Complex at Parchin (MCP) in the same way the term “Oak Ridge” is taken to mean, not the town of Oak Ridge, TN, but the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory. See GE @ 35°55’42.74″ N 84°18’46.92″ W to follow this analogy.

    Now, looking down on Oak Ridge from sat-photos, there is no basis whatsoever for designating dozens of buildings near and around Oak Ridge as being “Oak Ridge.” For instance, there would be no justification whatsoever for calling a small cluster of buildings 2 km SSW of Oak Ridge “Oak Ridge” just because they are in the vicinity. Those buildings are, in fact, a commercial operation, Tru Waste Processing Center. See GE @ 35°54’32.88″ N 84°18’54.89″ W, even though they look like they could be a part of an explosion chamber operation because there is water on the ground near one of them.

    Keeping this analogy in mind, recall that on Mar13.2012 David Albright got this explosion chamber fiasco going by claiming that it is located at the PMC, but what he pointed to was a gaggle of structures 4 km north of the PMC, which I am calling the PinkSite ™. Albright’s article was titled: Satellite Image of Building Which [sic] Contains a High Explosive test Chamber at the Parchin Site in Iran

    There is no more evidence in the sat-photos proffered by Albright that the PinkSite is a part of the PMC than there is evidence that Tru Waste is a part of Oak Ridge. The PinkSite and PMC have no common fence, for instance. The PinkSite is 4-5 km removed from the PMC, as the crow flies. The highway does not even directly connect the PinkSite to the PMC. And yet Albright’s label has stuck, and with consequences.

    In your article you relate the Olli Heinonen story about how IAEA inspectors were given their choice of buildings to inspect in 2005. That Lotto agreement type of inspection technique is set forth in detail at paragraph 41 of the 2005 IAEA report on IRI, which you link to.

    You then assert that in 2005 the IAEA could have chosen to inspect the PinkSite, and this is what I’m havin’ problems with:

    Let’s recall that the IAEA has already visited Parchin twice in 2005 and found nothing – although they did not go to the specific area [i.e. the PinkSite] they are now interested in. However, the IAEA could have gone to that area even in 2005 – they simply chose to go to other sites on the military base.

    And then you seem to back this up by quoting from paragraph 41 of the 2005 IAEA report:

    The Agency was given free access to those buildings and their surroundings and was allowed to take environmental samples, the results of which did not indicate the presence of nuclear material, nor did the Agency see any relevant dual use equipment or materials in the locations visited.

    But that line is taken out of context. There is no indication in paragraph 41 or the entire report that “those buildings” refers to the PinkSite. “[T]hose buildings” refers to the five buildings the IAEA selected, not the PinkSite.

    My gripe is that it is not correct to say or infer that the IAEA could have inspected the PinkSite unless the PinkSite was designated by Iran as a part of the PMC when Olli et al. made their choice in 2005. If the PinkSite was never designated by Iran as part of the complex – because, for instance, it’s not – then there would have been no reason for the IAEA to choose it over any of thousands of other buildings outside the PMC. Furthermore, if it was not a part of the PMC, then the IAEA would not have been permitted to inspect anything there according to the Lotto agreement, which was restricted to the PMC.

    It was Albright who 7 years after the fact said the PinkSite is part of PMC, and everybody else has just gone along with that without demanding any substantiation. If an inspection team was given their choice of any 5 buildings to inspect at Oak Ridge, it would be preposterous if 7 years later someone called Tru Waste Processing “Oak Ridge” and claimed the inspection team could have chosen to inspect those Tru Waste buildings if they had wanted to.

    If Olli or someone else on the 2005 inspection team were to say “Yes, that area 4-5 km north of the PMC was considered a part of the PMC at the time and we could have chosen any of those buildings,” then your statement would be corroborated and I would eat that crow flying between it and PMC. But as it now stands, I don’t buy it and I don’t think anyone should.

    Call that site anything you want – PinkSite, Albright’s Banana Barn, the ISIS Sucker’s Site – but in calling it “Parchin” you are playing into Albright’s trap. By associating that bunch of buildings with Parchin by name, you imply that those buildings were offered to the IAEA for inspection in 2005, and we don’t know that that’s the case. Furthermore, by calling them “Parchin” half of the heavy lifting is done in making them nefarious. The next thing you know people will be publishing sat-photos of the buildings covered with pink tarps as obvious proof that there’s an explosion chamber there.

    • bob kelley says:

      Funny you should mention that. They are camoflaging a builiding not 50 meters from my house at this very moment. The walls are now bright pink and they are starting on the roof. There are several other buildings in this town being similarly disguised. They are also pouring concrete and asphalting. Do you know who we should notify? Interpol maybe?

    • Cyrus says:

      The bigger question is why did the IAEA not ask to go to this place back in 2005 when the IAEA was demanding access to Parchin, esp since the IAEA is supposedly in possession of the intelligence inplicating this place and not Iran.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      I think Denis brings up a very interesting question here. Yousaf, what do you think?

    • yousaf says:

      Bob Kelley may know more details, but I’ve never heard the Iranians complain that what Amano wants to see now is not considered part of the Parchin base. I had a look on google-maps to see the buildings of interest (now) and see no reason to think that they are not part of the rest of the complex. (It is a large base). What is a bit odd is that the building with the alleged explosion chamber is about 500 feet from a road. Not where I would put such an alleged test chamber. If anyone has firm details on how the Iranians define “Parchin military base” pls let me know.

      • Parchin is a large military reservation. There are several different contractors there performing different tasks related to missiles, explosives, propellants and mechanical fabrication. I think of it as similar to the Hanford Reservation which has always had a gaggle of contractors.

        The Pretty Pink building in question sits on a major inside-the-plant highway between other plant sites. Parchin is made up of discrete manufacturing zones with their own fences and guards. The overall site has an external perimeter.

        It is odd that a facility as important as the alleged confinement chamber is a mere 150 meters from an in-plant highway that could be used by anyone with the lowest security clearances necessary to be on site. Odd that a power line from one site to another runs through the supposedly sensitive zone and not around it. But really incredible that the security fence runs only five meters from the alleged cylinder building. You would think that a building housing 70 kilogram contained explosions and concealing Iran’s vital national security interests would have a real security perimeter around it.

        And just to reiterate, the Pink Phase of the Pretty Pink site was clearly when the buildings were being insulated with pink styro panels. It is so common in 21st century construction as to be completely ordinary!

      • Denis says:

        Bob and Yousaf

        Thanks for your comments on defining PMC. Sorry to be such a gadfly about this, but I’m still not seeing any PMC boundary that would include the pink buildings.

        Bob notes that the pink building sits on “a major inside-the-plant highway between other plant sites” and that this highway does not define the PMC border. There is another physical border that defines PMC – “[t]he overall site has an external perimeter.” As I understand it, this larger border defines PMC and the pink building is inside both the PinkSite fence and that larger border, which would make it properly a part of PMC. But I’m not seeing it.

        First, with respect to the “inside-the-plant highway” that the pink building sits on, firing up both my OCD and my GE, what I see is a highway running N-S and parallel to the PinkSite (PiSi). I don’t see a name for that highway displayed on GE. It runs N along the river bed to the new hydro-electric dam site, as it did in 2004. Right at the dam the road turns W and intersects with a major highway labeled “Bozograh-Tehran-Parchin” (BTP). 35°34’48.64″ N 51°45’54.49″ E

        From the PiSi south this road is heading toward Parchin, but it veers to the W about 3 km N of Parchin and connects to the BTP at a round-about. 35°32’51.83″ N 51°45’36.13″ E

        Thus, the road running past the PiSi and the BTP comprise a complete circle with the PiSi just inside the eastern boundary of the circle. This whole circle is about 4 km N of Parchin proper but does not include either Parchin or what is referred to as the Military Complex by news sources. Various news photos purporting to show sat-photos of the PMC all show a complex that is right in Parchin proper.

        And this is why I’m having problems with the external perimeter theory. We know that the main PMC “campus,” if you will, is located right at Parchin. I mean, this is the complex that is shown in sat-photos in the press and, I believe, by Albright. There are helicopter pads and bunkers galore. 35°31’36.28″ N 51°46’39.04″ E

        And so if the “overall site has an external perimeter” and if the PiSi is a part of the complex, then that perimeter must encompass both this PMC proper and the PiSi. While there are numerous spooky looking complexes and tunnel entrances in the area that are surrounded by fences or walls, I cannot see a single wall/fence that encompasses the whole thing. And I cannot see any perimeter that surrounds both the pink buildings and any other structures that are not a part of the PiSi.

        The closest I can see to a plenary fence or wall is a very long wall that is quite conspicuous on GE. You can see it 150 meters E. of the pink building. It runs along the river bed from almost the dam south almost to Changi south of Parchin – a total distance of about 10 km. But it does not leave the river or make an enclosed area or anything like that. It is almost certainly a flood control wall. In the Mar2004 GE photo, before the dam was built, there is water in the river and you can see how at places the water runs right up to and along this flood wall. So I don’t think that is the PMC perimeter. I don’t see any such perimeter.

        So if there is an overall perimeter structure that encompasses the PiSi and the main part of the PMC, I would agree that the PiSi must be a part of the Complex, but I just can’t find that perimeter. I would be delighted if someone could tag that perimeter.

        Bob also lists a number of anomalies that tend to de-bunk this Albright/Jahn explosion chamber babble. For instance: “But really incredible [is] that the security fence runs only five meters from the alleged cylinder building.” That fence has an interesting history of its own, which you can follow on GE.

        Betwen Mar.2004 and Jul.2011, that fence seemed to be a contiguous PiSi perimeter, including guard houses at the N and S extremes. The clearest shot is the Jul.2011. But sometime between Jul.2011 and the next GE shot, May.2012, the fence was almost completely removed. The N guard house was gone, too. The S guard house remained in May.2012, as did a short section of the fence connected to it.

        By Oct.2012, the fence was entirely gone. But it looks like construction had begun on the new fence at the N boundary. Two months later, Dec2012 – bingo! – the new fence appears, except now, judging by the shadows, it is a very substantial wall. It follows the same contours as the original fence. The last GE shot, Jan26.13, shows really well how tall the new wall is. Tamara with her analysis skills could probably tell us how high in the click of a mouse.

        The other interesting thing about the new wall is that on the E border of the PiSi it completely encloses the dirt road – not the highway, but the dirt road that is w/in the site. So now, you enter the site near the S guard house – the only entrance. You are then bounded by a wall on both sides. To get to the buildings you have to go through openings in the W wall – one opening is clear, there may be a second. There are no openings in the E wall, and it looks like there is no guard house and no openings at the N end. It seems like a very impractical arrangement.

        Also in the Jan2013 view, that E wall is itself bordered on the E by what looks like very regularly spaced concrete blocks or reinforcements of some kind.

        As for the power lines, prior to 2012 power lines ran right through the PiSi, along the drive next to the buildings. Those lines have all been moved E so that they now run along the highway, well outside the PS fence. This is likely part of the hydro-electric project going online. The GE photos are 2004-2013, while the dam construction was just starting until completion.

        Another interesting feature of the PiSi prior to 2012 is a buried water line or something similar, with very prominent, periodic manholes. It runs through the middle of the planted area to the E of the buildings. You can see it most clearly in the Mar20.2009 view, when it was being dug. It is no longer visible now. It ran way N toward the dam and way S. I don’t see any indication of these pipes being connected to the PiSi buildings, but there is a 5 yr. gap in the GE historical sequence.

        In the Jul.2010 view you can also see exposed pipes running N-S along the highway 500 meters N of the N boundary of the PiSi. They look like 36 inch pipes, likely carrying water from the lake to Parchin.

        I will now finish my cold cup of coffee, stumble to my medicine cabinet, and try to find my meds.

  9. Denis says:

    I am having problems with your attack of the IAEA over the Syria thing. I must say it looks to me like a red herring and an unnecessary distraction from the PinkSite issue. Here are three of my problems with your assessment.

    1. Israeli missiles or Israeli bombs. What difference does it make?
    In your critique of the IAEA’s handling of the inspections of Syrian Dair Alzour site, you bring into question the IAEA’s “professionalism” in view of IAEA’s assertion that Dair Alzour was hit by missiles whilst Bob Kelley concludes they must have been “deep earth penetrating bombs, not missiles . . .” The message I took away was that you were saying what a bunch of dummies the IAEA must be if they can’t tell an Israeli bomb from an Israeli missile.

    Just to be sure we’re straight here, if we attack the professionalism of the IAEA based on a Director General’s report dated 2008, we are attacking the professionalism of el-Baradei. I can see how one would question the professionalism of Amano for the way he has made potentially dangerous accusations regarding Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programs, where the accusations are based on shadowy sources that Amano refuses to identify, and where he appears to be using the auspices of the IAEA to shill for Israel’s and the US’s interests. I get how that sort of behavior would impugn Amano’s professionalism. But I’m not so sure about attacking el-Baradei’s professionalism based on the bomb-not-missile goof.

    OK, maybe it was bombs and not missiles that flattened the Syrian reactor, but in fairness to the IAEA, it was Syria who claimed that Israeli missiles were used. You yourself quote the 2008 IAEA report as saying: “Syria stated that the only explanation for these particles was that they were contained in the missiles used to destroy the building.” [Bold added, assuming the formatting works.]

    That 2008 report quotes verbatim a Nov11.2008 letter from Syria saying: “The only explanation for the presence of these modified uranium particles is that they were contained in the missiles that were dropped from the Israeli planes onto the building to increase the destructive power. Based on this, we hope that the Agency will verify the nature of the materials used in these missiles.” [Bold added]

    The phrase “missiles that were dropped from the Israeli planes…” doesn’t make sense, technically. Bombs are dropped; missiles are fired. So there may be some translation issues here. The Syrian letter in the 2008 report is published in English. I have no idea what the translation history was. Nevertheless, Syria, not the IAEA, appears to be the source of the “missiles” mis-characterization.

    My guess is that the Syrian official was using the term “missile” loosely as a generic term for “something-came-from-the-Israeli-planes-and-splattered-our-building,” and Kelley was setting the record straight by distinguishing bombs from missiles. Fair enough. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame the missile mis-characterization on el-Baradei or the IAEA.

    More to the point, I don’t see how the bomb/missile distinction matters one wit as to the validity of the IAEA’s conclusions re: Syria’s reactor. Did the IAEA have information to refute Syria’s assertion that missiles hit the site? Probably not because that information could only have come from Israel and Israel ain’t talkin’; they never talk when they break international law. So if Syria is asserting that the deed was done by missiles, I don’t see how it is unprofessional of the IAEA to rely on that assertion.

    2. Uranium munitions.
    I got confused on this issue. With respect to hypothetical U-munitions dropped on Dair Alzour, first you say: “Uranium metal would be even better than these two materials and has been proposed by defense contractors in the US, but its use in the US or other countries is unknown.” [Bold added.]

    But then you say: “Although depleted uranium is used in some earth-penetrating ordnance, so is natural uranium.”

    This seems to be a contradiction on a very important point, but then I don’t entirely understand the distinction between “uranium metal” and “natural uranium.” Either way, if your first statement is true that there are no known instances where “natural uranium” is used for bombs/missiles, then Syria’s position that Israel is the source seems to be weak.

    As far as the IAEA getting the Government of Israel to help clear this situation up by providing the specs for the missiles/bombs . . . uh, probably not, and I don’t think we can hold IAEA to account for GoI’s stiffing the world. Trying to get info out of GoI is like sucking a marshmallow through a straw. It would be delusional for the IAEA, or anyone, to entertain even a momentary hope that GoI would describe the munitions when GoI won’t even admit that they blew up the reactor? The IAEA has zero authority to demand that GoI hand over any information about anything, so far as I can see. That is not the IAEA’s fault. It’s the US’s fault and the UN’s fault for not demanding GoI accept its responsibilities as a nuclear power, open its doors, sign onto the treaties, and quit acting like Moshe Dayan’s mad dog.

    3. What’s with the micro particles?
    Assuming there was a reactor at Dair Alzour before the GoI bombs so rudely arrived, and assuming it was unfueled as the US intel you quoted said, doesn’t that mean that Syria would have had no disclosure obligations at the time the reactor was hit? According to the intel you cite, the reactor was still under construction – so when does the disclosure obligation kick in? This same point keeps coming up with Iranian facilities that are accused of being in violation of NPT disclosure obligations before those obligations kick in.

    If fuel had been loaded and Syria had been therefore in violation of its disclosure obligations, then surely U would have been spread all the way to Piccadilly Circus when those bombs hit, and the IAEA would have found a lot more than just the “microscopic” particles. Besides, we know that the GoI SOP is to hit these “enemy” reactors before they are loaded (i.e. Osirak) so that GoI doesn’t get blamed for spreading radioactive isotopes all over the globe. So everything seems to point to the Syrian reactor having no radioactive fuel on site.

    So what’s the point of the microscopic U? Seems like the verifiable absence of large amounts of U fuel means that Syria could not have been in violation.

    [I’ll bet I’ve got this point really wrong somewhere, b/c it seems too obvious. I'll probably embarrass m'self . . . again. ]

    • yousaf says:

      Yes, it may be a bit unclear: The IAEA discounted the connection of the few microscopic particles with U that they found to depleted U. But munitions — whatever they are: missiles, bombs, wahtever — don’t have to be be DU, they can be natural U (i.e. like what was found). So the IAEA (intentionally or not) set-up a depleted U strawman and demolished it. I understand the politics of why the IAEA doesn’t pursue Israel on the content of their ordnance but that is the one piece of info that can clear all this up.

      As I stated:

      ” the information was never provided by Israel, so it is impossible to conclude that the man-modified uranium particles could not have come from Israeli ordnance. It would have been straightforward to clear up the true origin of the detected particles had Israel been more forthcoming about the composition of the materials used in its ordnance. Although depleted uranium is used in some earth-penetrating ordnance, so is natural uranium. However, Israel waved off the IAEA’s requests to give the Agency more information. And unlike with Iran and Syria, the IAEA has not insisted that Israel provide it with the further necessary forensic evidence.

      The uranium particles detected by IAEA do not rule out the use of natural uranium earth penetrators nor do they confirm them. The particles neither confirm the presence of natural uranium fuel nor do they exclude it. Absent further information on the composition of the Israeli ordnance used, the uranium particles detected by the IAEA don’t prove anything. If anything, the burden of proof now falls on Israel to confirm that the ordnance used could not have been the source of the particles.

      There is, thus, reason to be very skeptical of the IAEA’s unfounded implication that “[t]he presence of such uranium particles points to the possibility of nuclear related activities at the site,” or that the “probability that the particles originated from the missiles used to destroy the building is low.”

      A US Intelligence briefing following the raid said quite clearly that the “reactor was destroyed in an Israeli air strike early in the morning of 6 September 2007 as it was nearing completion but before it had been operated and before it was charged with uranium fuel.” [emphasis added] And a detailed Spiegel report mentioned that the uranium fuel had likely just arrived in country a few months before. As the putative reactor was still under construction, the US intelligence report that the reactor was unfueled at the time of the attack makes complete sense. It would be folly to put delicate fuel rods in a building where construction was still underway.”

      • Denis says:

        Yes, but why do the particles matter? If the reactor had no fuel and Syria had no disclosure obligations, then it seems the particles are a red herring.

        According to an article by al-Jazeera just today, the US claims that countries have to disclose reactor plans as soon as they decide to build. Iran claims there is no obligation to disclose until a reactor is fueled.

        http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2013/06/201365152618148462.html

        This is a legal question, not a technical one. Clearly they can’t both be right. But if Iran is right, then the conclusion must surely be that the Syrians were in compliance at the time their reactor was taken out, and the IAEA should not be involved at all.

      • Dan Joyner says:

        Denis, as best I can tell Syria did agree to the modified code 3.1 subsidiary agreement standards that the IAEA adopted in 1992. Syria’s safeguards agreement itself only came into force in 1992, and I assume they would have signed onto the new subsidiary agreement text. Subsidiary agreement letters of agreement between the IAEA and the safeguarded state are typically not public documents, so its difficult to be sure about this without acces to confidential information.

        But if my assumption is correct, then the modified code 3.1 standard is that a safeguarded state has to submit preliminary design information to the IAEA on a new reactor “as soon as the decision to construct or to authorize construction has been taken, whichever is earlier.” So if Al Kibar was a nuclear reactor and was in the process of construction, it should have been declared to the IAEA per this subsidiary agreement standard.

        Iran’s argument is specifically regarding Iran’s own subsidiary arrangements. You can see here the IAEA legal advisor’s office summary of the arguments:

        http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/file_download/162/Legal_Adviser_Iran.pdf

        I’ve also written about this issue previously here:

        http://jurist.org/forumy/2010/03/qom-enrichment-facility-was-iran.php

      • Denis says:

        Dan

        Your Jurist article on Iran’s reporting obligations is very well done. I wish it was more accessible to us laypeople, as in CNN ought to be interviewing you on this.

        With respect to Iran you say:

        it is not at all clear that the subsidiary arrangements to be subsequently concluded between Iran and the IAEA in order to implement the Safeguards Agreement are conceived of by the parties as constituting a treaty.

        Do the same Code 3.1 and modified Code 3.1 apply to all signatories of the Safeguards Agreement? If so, then doesn’t Syria have the same argument you suggest Iran has; i.e., these Subsidiary Agreements are not treaties, but rather guidelines?

        The other question I’d like to get your expert take on is Article 42 of the Safeguards Agreement. You give this language:

        “such information shall be provided as early as possible before nuclear material is introduced into a new facility.”

        Somewhere I have read the pro-Iranian side arguing as if the requirement is just the last 8 words: before nuclear material is introduce into a new facility. But the requirement is “as early as possible” — which seems to me would be at the completion of the design or planning state, or at the approval stage at the latest. Since Article 42 is, as you say, treaty material, then I don’t see how anyone could read the obligations to be that as long as fuel is not loaded, notification is not required.

        Article 42 is mind-boggling in its ambiguity, I mean, what does “as early as possible” mean. Imagine a lease that reads: Lessee agrees to make monthly payments as close to the first of the month as possible.

        It looks like somewhere Iran tightened up on the Article 42 language with the 180 day notice provision. But did Syria? If not, then my take would be that even if the Subsidiary Agreements can be side-stepped as not being a treaty, Syria still would have had an Article 42 reporting obligation “as early as possible before” the fuel was loaded, whatever that means.

      • Dan Joyner says:

        Thanks Denis. Yes, the Code 3.1 language – both original and modified – are presumptively the same for all countries. Changes could have been negotiated bilaterally with the IAEA, but I think thats unlikely. So yes, Syria would have the same legal arguments about the character of the subsidiary arrangements that Iran would have in my view.

        My memory is that the old Code 3.1 included the “180 days before fissile material is introduced” standard. And this was taken as an agreed interpretation of the Article 42 vague rule. The modified Code 3.1. language then changed this agreed interpretation to the “decision to construct or to authorize construction” language.

        I think that these are very useful agreed interpretations by the parties (the state and the IAEA) to a CSA. I just dont think the parties intended these agreed interpretations to be any more than the modalities of cooperation. I dont think they intended them to rise to the same legal level as the CSA itself.

    • Gilbert says:

      The missile/bomb issue is a bit more complex. The sale of “bunker busters” to Israel was still on the table at the time of the bombing. Israel either used unofficial stocks in which case admitting it would put the USG in hot water, it used “regular” bombs, or it used indigenous stocks (in which case why the headache of buying them from the US).

      They would have also been bombs and not missiles since fighter bombers cannot carry missiles with enough punch to demolish a hardened structure. Using aircraft fired missiles would have required an unreasonable amount of aircraft and missiles.

      Finally, there is no conclusive evidence that Israel even used bunker busters. The assumption is that the bombs had to penetrate to destroy while in fact the job could have been also accomplished by collapsing the top onto the vessel chamber making the building unusable without major, lenghty reconstruction efforts.

  10. bob kelley says:

    Denis

    I think you raise a very good point. Let me summarize in my own words. If you look at the pink tarp site I think you will conclude there is no way to approach it on a paved road from outside the general Parchin reservation without passing some sort of a guard post. There are stop and check points on all the roads.

    Within the plant there are additional checkpoints securing individual areas for safety or security purposes and some of those checkpoints look large and serious. I think if you look, there are perimeter security roads and a fence around much of the large reservation, if not all. Some points even have lookout towers.

    Since Parchin is a huge site it would be straightforward to infiltrate on foot or on a dirt track so it is prudent for Parchin to have sub-zones of security, which they clearly do. Many of the compounds within the reservation have their own security post including the pink site. The security at the pink site is one of the less impressive ones. The four lane in-plant highway, as I have designated it, is accessible to all the contractors who can get onto the general site. Cooks, guards, plumbers and teamsters. This road is about 130 meters away from the national security site

    The pink site had a fence or maybe a wall before it was renovated. It came within 6 meters of a building claimed to hold a dangerous explosion containment chamber. It is claimed that experiments in this chamber threatened the integrity of Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It is claimed that the experiments were hazardous and this is why there is a very small berm shielding a small angle at the south end of the building. Protecting a control or office building.

    The fence/wall comes within one meter of what appears to be the control or office building for this sensitive national security site. You could almost reach across the fence and touch the building, or attach a sensor.

    Bottom line? We are being asked to believe that Iran spent millions of dollars building a massive steel chamber to do experiments of the utmost sensitivity. If they were caught in this process their credibility would suffer greatly. They allegedly built the chamber because the tiniest puff of uranium released from it could be detected and give their game away. And then they built a security perimeter that excludes espionage from a range of six meters.

    Are the Iranians that stupid? If they are not, then who is that stupid?

    • Denis says:

      Bob: There are stop and check points on all the roads.

      I see what you mean. I have spotted 5 of them. Right – you can’t get to that PinkSite without going through one. There is one just about 1.5 km south, for instance. The only way into/out of the area is by the N-S Bozorgran-e-Tehran-Parchin Hwy and it is peppered with check points.

      Bob: If the Iranians are not that stupid, then who is?

      My guess would be:
      A. Anybody who would suggest the whole explosion chamber yada-yada, including the pink batts, Google Sketch chamber diagram, sophomoric bell-curve, and dog pee on the driveway.
      B. Anybody who would publish it.
      C. Anybody who would believe it.
      D. Anybody who thinks that post-Iraq this sort of crap will work again.

      (Not so sure about “D.”)

  11. […] United States and Israel, has never been authenticated, and refers to long-debunked claims about supposed actions that took place over a decade […]


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