Nuclear Center exec avows safety of Dimona reactor

Friday, August 31, 2007

The nuclear reactor at Dimona is not expected to be shut down in the next few years, despite its advanced age and the customary practice in other countries to decommission reactors after 40 years, according to the deputy CEO of the Negev Nuclear Research Center.

Professor Elhanan Abramov's interview with journalist Miki Rosenthal, for the television program Bulldozer, is scheduled to be broadcast by Channel 2 tonight.

The rare sit-down is part of an investigative report entitled "Expired," which looks into the safety of the 44-year-old nuclear reactor, which, according to foreign media reports, is used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Abramov assures the public that despite the reactor's age, it is safe according to Western standards and that every few years, work is halted for a comprehensive renovation.

"We stop the reactor, check the systems and renovate them... Israeli citizens, apart from being assured that the reactor is safe, can sleep more soundly because this reactor is working," Abramov told Rosenthal.

The famous dome over the reactor's core, which is visible from the Dimona-Eilat road, is made of steel and thick concrete and cannot be replaced. Abramov said it was built to prevent any radioactive leak, no matter how grave.

He said such malfunctions have not occurred in the past. The steel-coated concrete "is like new and I wish today's buildings looked like that," he said.

"Our engineers and researchers planned and built a device that is placed inside the reactor and emits ultrasound waves that comb the structure centimeter by centimeter [searching for any leaks]. This checkup was completed very recently and we've discovered that the qualities [of the reactor's core] have not changed at all since the day it was erected," he said.

The NNRC is under the constant supervision of the Nuclear Safety Committee, which is subject to the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

In 2004, the defense establishment decided to distribute anti-radiation iodine pills to some of Dimona's residents, to be taken in case of a radioactive nuclear leak. The defense establishment had also planned to distribute these pills in Yavneh, which is adjacent to the Soreq Nuclear Research Center. However, the plan was scrapped due to the strong objection of Mayor Zvi Gov-Ari, who said this would highlight the alleged danger in that area.

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