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Marj as-Sultan Uranium Conversion Facility

Last Modified: Aug. 14, 2012
Other Name: N/A
Location: Marj as-Sultan, 15km east of Damascus
Subordinate To: Unknown
Size: 2 buildings
Facility Status: Unknown

Syria allegedly constructed the Marj as-Sultan facility for the conversion of uranium yellowcake into uranium tetrafluoride (UF4). If such allegations are correct, the facility "could have been related to the process of making fuel for the planned Al- Kibar reactor." [1] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards reports have repeatedly mentioned three sites in Syria as "allegedly functionally related" to the Al-Kibar site, without providing any additional details about these facilities. [2] These three facilities were later identified by news reports as Marj as-Sultan, Masyaf, and Iskandariyah, and reportedly included a uranium conversion facility and storage facilities for fuel or other equipment related to Al-Kibar. [3]

In 2011, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung claimed that Marj as-Sultan was the location of the uranium conversion activities. The newspaper obtained pictures believed to depict the interior of the site, showing processing equipment commonly found in uranium conversion facilities: such as reaction vessels, two cyclone separators, a scrubber, and a metal tube useful for purifying solutions. [4] An ISIS imagery analysis of commercial satellite pictures taken in July 2008 showed construction activity at the site. [5] These activities may have represented a Syrian attempt to disguise the purpose of the facility in response to possible IAEA interest in inspecting the site. [6] This matches the November 2008 IAEA report, which stated that satellite pictures had observed "landscaping activities and the removal of large containers" at one of the locations purportedly related to the Al-Kibar site. [7] If Syria indeed attempted to conceal activities at Marj as-Sultan, the processing equipment may have been removed from these facilities as well. Due to lack of information and access, the IAEA has been "unable to provide any assessment concerning [the] nature or operational status" of the three alleged facilities. [8] Syria insists that the facility is a non-nuclear military site, and satellite imagery does indicate that the suspected buildings at Marj as-Sultan are co-located with a military storage depot. [9]

Sources:
[1] David Albright and Paul Brannan, "Satellite Image Shows Suspected Uranium Conversion Plant in Syria," Institute for Science and International Security, 23 February 2011, www.isis-online.org.
[2] IAEA, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic," Report by the Director General to the Board of Governors, GOV/2008/60, 19 November 2008, www.iaea.org; IAEA, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic," Report by the Director General to the Board of Governors, GOV/2011/30, 24 May 2011, www.iaea.org.
[3] P.A. Krueger, "Verdaechtige Gebaeude in Bester Wohnlage," Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 23 February 2011, www.sueddeutsche.de.
[4] P.A. Krueger, "Verdaechtige Gebaeude in Bester Wohnlage," Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 23 February 2011, www.sueddeutsche.de.
[5] David Albright and Paul Brannan, "Satellite Image Shows Suspected Uranium Conversion Plant in Syria," Institute for Science and International Security, 23 February 2011, www.isis-online.org.
[6] David Albright and Paul Brannan, "Satellite Image Shows Suspected Uranium Conversion Plant in Syria," Institute for Science and International Security, 23 February 2011, www.isis-online.org.
[7] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 19 November 2008, www.iaea.org.
[8] IAEA, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic," Report by the Director General to the Board of Governors, GOV/2011/30, 24 May 2011, www.iaea.org.
[9] David Albright and Paul Brannan, "Satellite Image Shows Suspected Uranium Conversion Plant in Syria," Institute for Science and International Security, 23 February 2011, www.isis-online.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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