Syrian authorities asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to help it convert a nuclear facility and to move potentially dangerous nuclear material abroad, according to agency chief Yukiya Amano.
Amano told reporters: “We have received a request from Syria early this year (…) We are studying the request.”
He noted that such assistance would include converting a small reactor near Damascus in order for it to be fuelled with low-enriched uranium (LEU) instead of the more dangerous highly enriched uranium (HEU).
Following this, Syria’s stock of around one kilogramme of HEU would be sent back to China, which built the Miniature Neutron Source (MNSR) reactor that is used for training and research.
HEU can be used in a nuclear weapon, but it involves an extremely complicated process.
A more likely risk in the case of Syria, where the Islamic State (ISIS) controls large areas of the country, is the risk of using HEU to make what is called a “dirty bomb”. This bomb can distribute the nuclear material across a wide area by using conventional explosives. This is likely to cause mass panic.