Syria may build its first nuclear power plant by 2020 to meet growing energy demand, a document showed, despite international concern over Syrian stonewalling of a UN probe into allegations of covert atomic activity.
According to Reuters, the paper from Syria's Atomic Energy Commission did not say whether the Arab state, under a three-year-old investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), might also contemplate producing its own fuel for such a facility.
Any bid by Syria to launch uranium enrichment, like its ally Iran, would probably further alarm the United States and its Western allies about Syrian nuclear activities as such material can also be used to make bombs if refined much more.
Russia said in May last year, during a visit to Damascus by President Dmitry Medvedev, that it was studying building an atomic power plant in Syria. Syrian officials have given no details since then and none was available to comment on Tuesday.
Mark Hibbs, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Syria would need to import almost everything it needed for a nuclear reactor. But he doubted that any country would help it while it was under IAEA investigation.
"The biggest hurdle to Syria moving forward in its nuclear programme right now is simply the fact that it is not cooperating with the IAEA in investigating what appears to be serious allegations," he said. "It is almost inconceivable that Syria would be able to import a nuclear power reactor ... unless that is resolved."
The IAEA, the U.N. nuclear body, has voiced growing frustration at what it sees as lack of Syrian cooperation with a probe into a desert site bombed to rubble by Israel in 2007. US intelligence reports have said the Dair Alzour facility was a nascent North Korean-designed nuclear reactor intended to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
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