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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Homs [3440'N 3640'E]

The Homs complex produces Scud C and D missiles as well as nonconventional weapons. Syria maintains a missile test site 15 kilometers south of Homs. On 13 April 2007, citing Israeli intelligence sources, the Jerusalem Post reported that Syria had a missile site at Homs which housed a "previously undisclosed chemical warhead facility" and a facility where these warheads can be rapidly placed on Syrian missiles.

An explosion in late March 2002 destroyed a major factory and damaged several buildings in a military industrial complex south of Homs, but was believed to have left the strategic weapons production line unaffected. US satellite imagery after the blast reportedly showed one building destroyed and several others damaged. The United States remained uncertain of what that building had contained, but intelligence agencies concluded that it was not a missile or a WMD facility.

Syria is a producer of fertilizers. The General Company for Phosphate and Mines (GECOPHAM) operates the Eastern A, the Eastern B, and the Kneifis phosphate rock mines, which had a combined capacity of 2.65 Mt/yr. Phosphate rock was consumed by General Fertilizers Company [GFC] phosphoric acid and triple superphosphate (TSP) fertilizer plants in Homs. In 2000, the value of phosphate rock production amounted to $38.2 million. Syria's domestic production of phosphate fertilizers met only 63% of domestic demand; Bechtel Corp. and Makad International planned to build a 500,000-t/yr TSP plant near Palmyra. Financial constraints had prevented the implementation of this project (Arab Petroleum Research Center, 2001c, p. 444). Syria was the world's fifth largest exporter of phosphate rock; about 74% of Syria's phosphate rock was exported in 2000. Lebanon accounted for 34% of exports; Romania, 9%; Greece, 7%; Portugal, 7%; and others, 43%. Most phosphate rock exported from Syria was used to produce single superphosphate (Fertilizer International, 2001).

As of 1996 Preparations for a semi-industrial pilot plant for the removal of uranium from endogenously produced triple super phosphate continued at Homs, Syria under a UNDP-financed IAEA-project. The UN Development Program (UNDP) assisted Syria in a five-year [1996-2001] project worth US$2.3 million to improve nationally produced phosphoric acid. The IAEA waas involved in this project, which set up techniques both for the removal and the recovery of uranium from the acid.

This project, completed 13 September 2001, aimed at designing, constructing, and making operational a pilot plant for the purification of phosphoric acid, and of preparing a feasibility study for a full scale commercial installation to make Triple Super Phosphate fertilizer with reduced uranium content. The Syrian Government showed great commitment to this project through cost sharing. A tripartite contract for the design, manufacture, installation, and commissioning of the pilot plant was signed in July 1997 between the Agency, the equipment supplier, and the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. The Atomic Energy Agency of Syria was responsible for the building selection and construction.

Pure phosphoric acid suitable for application in food products was manufactured by the hydration of phosphoric anhydride obtained by the oxidation of elemental phosphorus. The acid obtained, known as "thermal acid", is then treated with hydrogen sulfide or sodium hydrosulfide to remove heavy metal impurities as insoluble heavy metal sulfides. After filtration, the acid would be diluted to 75, 80 or 85% H.sub.3 PO.sub.4 for commercial applications. The drawbacks of the thermal method are the requirement of relatively expensive capital equipment, larger amounts of electrical energy, and pollution control. Because of the wide gap between the price of wet process phosphoric acid and the price of electrothermal acid made from elemental phosphorus, the purification of wet process phosphoric acid has received increasing attention.

Regardless of what acid is used to produce the wet process phosphoric acid, a considerable amount of dissolved and suspended impurities such as silica, aluminum, magnesium, vanadium, fluorine, chlorine, calcium, arsenic, lead, iron and other organic and inorganic inpurities are contained in the acid. The resulting wet process phosphoric acid contaminated by the aforesaid impurities has relatively limited uses, primarily in the fertilizer industry where such impurities are not only not harmful, but can be considered a desirable source of trace elements.

The pilot plant, ownded and operated by the Atomic Energy Commission of Syria, was to engage in Uranium recovery from phosphates using the D2EHPA-TOPO process. It was commissioned in February 1999. Extensive training in various forms, e.g., on-the-job training in the country, fellowships scientific visits, built up the necessary confidence and experience of the local staff in all the relevant aspects in the process of purification of phosphoric acid. The project resulted in the improved capability of Syrian staff to partially purify phosphoric acid, and Syrian counterparts were able to obtain the capability to provide their Government with the information required to assess the technical feasibility and the potential economic benefits of producing purified phosphoric acid in Syria. Kilborn Inc. of Canada carried out a pre-feasibility study that concluded that the industrialization of the process was not advisable due to financial considerations.

Industrial pollution is a major problem in all phases of Syrian industry. Homs, the site of a petroleum refinery and several fertilizer factories, is Syria's most industrially polluted city. Pollution is not limited to Homs, however, because as three-quarters of the thermal power stations throughout Syria burn fuel oil with a high sulfur content. Syria operates the 135,000-bbl/d Banias and the 107,000-bbl/d Homs refineries at their effective capacities. The refineries process a 60%/40% mixture of light and heavy crudes. Fuel oil accounts for nearly 45% of output. Surplus products are exported to Cyprus and Lebanon, and domestic consumption requires the import of about 5 million barrels per year of middle distillates.

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Page last modified: 02-08-2011 15:30:33 ZULU