Israeli lawmaker demands supervision of Dimona nuclear plant

Israeli lawmaker demands supervision of Dimona nuclear plant

A left-liberal Israeli lawmaker on Wednesday demanded external, non-military supervision of Israel's nuclear reactor near Dimona, in the southern Negev desert, dpa reported.

"The disaster in Japan must direct our attention to an issue that isn't being talked about in Israel," said Dov Khenin, chairman of the Knesset (parliament) Joint Committee for Health and the Environment.

The absence of supervision of the reactor, located 30 kilometres from the Great Rift Valley, which runs from Syria to eastern Africa, "can no longer be tolerated," said Khenin.

"In the event of a disaster, the environmental and health impact are likely to be horrible," said the lawmaker for Hadash, the only joint Jewish-Arab party in the Knesset, with four mandates in the 120-seat parliament.

"There is a consensus in the science community that the reactor is old. The response we always hear to this problem is that it has been improved."

He warned that any upgrades had been done without international assistance and know-how, because Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"The lesson from the disaster (in Japan) must be one - to subject the reactor in Dimona to civilian supervision," Khenin said.

"The time has come for a revision of Israel's nuclear reactor. It can't be that this issue continues to be kept in the dark, without any real analysis of the risks and dangers. The price may be too heavy for the citizens of Israel."

A prominent Israeli nuclear expert earlier this week urged the Israeli government to take into account the ramifications of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

"The reactor in Dimona is old. It is almost 50 (years), and its soft underbelly is its cooling system. I've been warning for years about the need to close it and to build a new one," nuclear scientist and chemistry professor Uzi Even told the Maariv daily.

Deadly earthquakes have occurred along the Great Rift Valley, where two pieces of geological plates are moving apart. In Israel itself, only minor tremors have occurred in recent years, though experts have warned that a more serious earthquake could be only a matter of time.

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