Russia warns of catastrophe effects if reactor near Damascus is hit by strike

imgRussia said that a military strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if a missile hit a small reactor near Damascus that contains radioactive uranium.

The Foreign Ministry called Wednesday on the U.N. nuclear agency to urgently assess the risk as the United States considers military action to punish Syria’s government for an alleged gas attack.

“If a warhead, by design or by chance, were to hit the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) near Damascus, the consequences could be catastrophic,” a ministry statement said.

It said nearby areas could be contaminated by highly enriched uranium and that it would be impossible to account for the material after a strike, suggesting it could fall into the hands of people who might use it as a weapon.

Russia urged the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency secretariat to “react swiftly” and present IAEA members “an analysis of the risks linked to possible American strikes on the MNSR and other facilities in Syria.”

Moscow has been the most powerful ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, shielding him from tougher U.N. resolutions and warning that a Western military attack on Syria would raise tensions and undermine efforts to end the country’s civil war.

“The IAEA is aware of the statement but has not received a formal request from the Russian Federation,” an IAEA spokesperson said. “We will consider the questions raised if we receive such a request.”

The IAEA said in a report to member states last week that Syria had declared there was a “small amount of nuclear material” at the MNSR, a type of research reactor usually fueled by highly enriched uranium.

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