Jan 9, 2012 1 Comment ›› Angelia
ISRAEL is preparing to shut its nuclear reactor at Dimona, where it makes nuclear weapons, because of the site’s vulnerability in a war with Iran.
The decision, taken by the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and the country’s civil defence authorities, follows a realisation that the facility could be vulnerable to a missile attack.
The Haaretz newspaper quoted officials last week as saying they had concluded the reactor was no longer impenetrable in the event of war.
Deactivating the reactor in the southern Negev desert would minimise the dangers of nuclear fallout in the area “should it be targeted by missiles from as far away as Iran”.
The official explanation is that work on the reactor is conducted for research and does not need to be carried out around the clock.
According to defence sources, the shutdown at Dimona would begin before the launch of any Israeli or US assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Whistleblowing technician Mordechai Vanunu, who first revealed Israel’s nuclear arsenal to London’s The Sunday Times in 1986, worked at Dimona.
Uzi Even, one of the founders of Israel’s nuclear program and now a professor in Tel Aviv, said it would take a long time, many weeks, to cool down a nuclear reactor and lower the level of radioactivity.
He said the Dimona reactor, built in 1964, was probably the second oldest active reactor in the world.
It was dangerous and “should have been closed a long time ago”, he said.
Dimona, constructed with French help, was used to make plutonium for nuclear weapons and experts say the reactor produces tritium for H-bombs.
The defence of Dimona is a top priority.
Huge air defence batteries ring the site, but this is no longer considered sufficient.
An Israeli intelligence officer said last week that in the event of war with Iran “no fewer than 15,000 rockets and missiles will land on Israel”.
The decision to close Dimona follows Iranian warnings that the site is a legitimate target.
Iran’s deputy chief of staff Brigadier-General Massoud Jazzayeri has warned that Dimona would be targeted in retaliation to an Israeli attack.
A leaked defence department report suggested security arrangements at Dimona had been “severely deficient” for years.
Dimona is within range of Iranian and Syrian missiles, and some of those possessed by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.