Dimona Reactor… a Mystery Threatening the Middle East
“The Israeli nuclear reactor of Dimona is vulnerable to meltdown, like the Russian reactor of Chernobyl two decades ago, which caused a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe. If Dimona melts down, it would affect an area 500 aerial kilometers in radius, reaching Cyprus and the entire neighboring region”, warned Dr. Yousef Abu Safiya, Head of the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority.
A recent study conducted by the Jordanian authorities after a request from the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority revealed that the Israelis are aware of the possibility of a meltdown in Dimona reactor, which in turn would affect the whole region, mainly the Jordanian southern city of Tafila.
The study also showed that radioactive substances are leaking from the Dimona reactor in a way that has increased rates of cancer diseases among nearby populations, particularly those of Tafila City.
What make these assumptions largely based on solid ground are the latest satellite images of the Dimona reactor, which showed that its walls have cracks, which cut its assumed age into half.
With thorough investigation into Dimona Israel’s nuclear plant, one can observe the following facts:
The location of Dimona's reactor in the Negev desert is a delicate one, situated between Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority's territories. The reactor was built in 1963, as part of a deal with France, who pledged to build the reactor in exchange for helping it and the United Kingdom in attacking Egypt in what was known as the 1956-tripartite. As for funding the reactor's driving material, the United States took care of that, in addition to giving assistance with moving quantities of enriched Uranium to Israel.
The area on which the Dimona reactor is built on includes nine buildings, including the reactor building itself. Each building is tasked with producing a certain type of materials used to produce weapons of mass destruction, such as Plutonium, Lithium and Beryllium, used to manufacture nuclear bombs, in addition to producing radioactive Uranium and Triennium.
The Dimona reactor is considered to be the most mysterious secrets of the "nuclear world", as Israel categorically refused, since its establishment in 1948 and after building the reactor, any routine inspection that other reactors around the world goes through, which "forcibly" open their reactors' doors in fear of the American waving of the "club" of international resolutions.
No Inspection Beyond this Point!
Israel might be considered the only state that opposes to the inspection visits conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) all over the world, added to its rejection, until this very day, to sign the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was signed by all Arab states.
In spite of the complete American support for the Israeli policy, the Americans have expressed their concern over the reactor, as news revealed an American attempt to send some of its nuclear-program officials to inspect Dimona reactor apart from those working in the IAEA, but Israel refused to allow them in, continuing the reactor's legacy of being "visitation-proof", as only Israelis are allowed in.
The Fifth Nuclear Power
Israel is considered the fifth nuclear power in the world. In addition to owning nuclear bombs that can be dropped from the air, its nuclear arsenal includes also nuclear warheads that can reach a distance of 1,500 kilometers, using the Israeli-made "Jericho" missiles.
Estimations show that Israel is in possession of 200 nuclear bombs, but Arab sources indicate that Israel own massive quantities of Uranium and Plutonium that enables it of producing an additional 100 bombs. Israel, in the meantime, seeks to increase the production efficiency of its reactor to about three times its current efficiency –from 28 to 100 megawatts.
According to recent reports, the Israeli nuclear reactor consumed 1,400 tons of Uranium last year, which indicates that its efficiency might have reached 150 megawatts.
In a study requested by the Palestinian Ministry of Environment Quality from the Jordanian authorities, it was revealed that the average manifestation of cancer in the Al Tafila governorate, south of Jordan, is higher than the other Jordanian governorates and surrounding Arab countries.
According to Dr. Abu Safiya, high cancer rates were recorded in all the southern Jordanian governorates, which confirmed the possible direction of nuclear dust that might be leaking from Dimona.
It was recently revealed that five Israeli families lost their sons who worked in Dimona reactor, and they filed charges in the Central Court in Tel Aviv against the Israeli government and the reactor's administration, demanding compensations for the cancer that killed those workers due to radiation exposure.
According to the lawsuit, the prosecutors are relatives to five Israelis who worked for a long time in the nuclear "village": Ze'eiv Schforn, born in 1931 and started working in Dimona in 1962 as the head of the supply crew. He was diagnosed with abdominal caner in 1966 and died in 1967. The second employee was Simon Dray, born in 1942 and worked in Dimona from 1966 until 1992 in the cleaning and decontamination unit. In 1996 he was diagnosed with pharyngeal cancer, and died in 1998. The third was Moshe Zegori, born in 1947, and worked in the reactor from 1965 until 1985, also in cleaning and decontamination. Before he left his job he found out that he had a malignant tumor in his head, and died in 1987. The fourth employee was Yousif Cohen, born in 1938, and worked in the reactor from 1970 until 1995, in maintenance. In 1997 he was diagnosed with several malignant tumors, and died in 1998.
The fifth employee is still suffering from cancer in his body, and is constantly under treatment. He worked in the reactor from 1969 until 1996, in maintenance and mechanical engineering.
The prosecutors of those victims are demanding the Israeli government to take responsibility for their deaths, due to the radiation exposure they suffered inside the reactor, which caused fatal malignant tumors. At the same time, they claim that the reactor's administration didn't take enough precaution measures and never warned the employees about the radiation hazard.
As reports indicate, the reactor has become old now, as its isolation walls have worn-out, which might cause the leakage of some radiation from the reactor, a thing that will lead to devastating health and ecological damages to the surrounding area.
According to the reports also, the reactor suffers from a dangerous crack caused by "neutron" radiation, which caused structural damage, as neutrons cause small gas bubbles inside the concrete support, making it fragile and susceptible to cracking.
The United Arab Emirates-based "Al Bayan" newspaper revealed recently that a serious debate was going on now about whether to stop working in the reactor before the catastrophe occurs or not. Additionally, a report made the by Israeli second TV channel mentioned that dozens of the reactor's employees died of cancer, and that the reactor's administration refuses to reveal the true number of casualties and fatalities.
The Dimona reactor wasn't also immune to many working accidents that happened inside it, including the burning of hazardous and poisonous materials without providing the employees with suitable protective equipment, as many of them died because of that. As well, quantities of radioactive heavy water and nuclear waste leaked into a natural geographical hill extending along the reactor.
By continuing to maintain and operate Dimona reactor, Israel is committing a crime against humanity that will be added to the atrocities it perpetrated along its history. Since 1971, the reactor has never been provided with new cooling towers, even though the reactor's efficiency has increased since then.
Dr. Abu Safiya pointed out that the most dangerous hazards of Dimona reactor is in the element producing Plutonium, which is used to make nuclear bombs. It's one of the resultant elements of Uranium DK dissipation, and it can be used to synthesize enriched Uranium. It contains 20% out of the 0.05% Uranium, which is the highly radioactive substance that can be used in nuclear fission to manufacture either nuclear bombs or atomic fuel.
Abu Safiya warned that there's a regional and long-term threat in Dimona reactor, represented in the presence of these nuclear bombs in the possession of a country such as Israel, a thing that raises questions about the inspection visits in Iraq and demanding Iran to be inspected too, as well as surprise inspections by the IAEA officials, while Israel publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons.
In response to that, Shimon Peres, temporary chairman of the Israeli Labor party, claimed that there's no comparison between Iraq and Israel, because, according to his claims, Iraq is ruled by a "dictator", while Israel is a "democratic" state!
Right after this statement, Israel used poisonous gases in the city of Khan Younis, which caused dozens of Palestinian citizens to suffer from unconsciousness and severe illnesses, added to the spasms and hysterical conditions some of them suffered from after inhaling such internationally-banned gases.
Commenting on this incident, Dr. Abu Safiya said that "we ascertained that these are nerve gases, by analyzing a specimen of the Israeli bombs that didn't burn completely. Through analysis, we revealed that it is composed of a group of nerve gases, due to which affected citizens suffered from spasms… this is an evidence against the state that Peres say it's "democratic", which used internationally-banned weapons against the Palestinian people."
Noteworthy that exposure to small amounts of radiation on the long run might pose a serious threat to embryos and children, as well as causing cancer.
Israel Least Damaged
Dr. Abu Safiya demanded the IAEA "if they truly seek integrity" to run checks in order to discover the level of radiation in the region around the Dimona reactor.
"If we conduct, for example, a Contour Survey for all directions to see the level of radiation and who's affected the most, we would find that Israel is the safest, having its population localities in the north far from the reactor. In addition, 95% of the wind direction in Palestine is northwestern, which is opposite to the Israeli population localities," Dr. Abu Safiya said.
The simplest radiation leak resulting from Dimona reactor is that of the depleted Uranium, which is of catastrophic implications, as it is considered one of the heavy elements that ruin kidney, liver and respiratory system functions, leading to death. Only one atom of radioactive Uranium is enough to cause fatal cancer.
What About the Reactor's Waste?
As for the waste products resulting from nuclear enrichment operations in Dimona reactor, Dr. Abu Safiya said that it's buried in areas near the Palestinian Authority controlled territories, as well as Jordanian and Egyptian ones, especially in those areas where the flow of aquifer water and direction of the wind is not in Israel's favor. A report by Israel's second TV channel revealed that Dimona reactor's waste products are buried in the areas east of the Al Bureij refugee camp and the town of Deir El Balah. Currently, the Palestinian Authority for Environment Quality is trying to get a permission to get water analysis equipment inside Gaza Strip to check these areas, but Israel is refusing.
"During the current Intifada, Israelis have buried nearly 50,000 tons of industrial chemical waste in Gaza Strip, only 30 meters deep, on an area of 5,000 square meters, as they stole the arable soil and moved it inside Israel and buried industrial waste in its place. This means that there's 150,000 cubic meters of poisonous waste buried in Gaza, which is a catastrophe. Moreover, Israel isn't affected by this waste because it was buried opposite to the flow of aquifer water," Abu Safiya narrated.
In the West Bank, most of what's buried is in the direction of the eastern hills, because it's not included in the Israeli-controlled lands, unlike the western hills. Now, the eastern hills are polluted with chemical waster and pesticides.
Covering Up for Their Crimes
In Ramallah and Hebron, the Palestinian Authority had some basic equipment to measure radiation and environmental pollution. These equipment didn't only check radiation, but pollution in general, such as soil, water, air and chemical pollution.
In this subject, Dr. Abu Safiya said that small devices were discovered inside helicopters, which is used to regulate the fan's rotation, as well as providing the pilot with some technical data. These devices, if exposed to a person or played with by children, might lead to death or blood and gene mutations, as it contains radioactive materials. The Minister added that "after these devices wore out, the Israelis dump them in the Palestinian controlled lands, and we found three of these devices in Ramallah, one of which was in President Yasser Arafat's office 'Al Moqata'a'." Such devices were also found during the Israeli invasion of Ramallah City on March 29, 2002, after the Authority received warnings of suspicious radioactive materials. When specialists from the Authority of Environment Quality reached the area and checked these parts, they found out that it contained glowing radioactive materials. The instruments those specialists had indicated that radiation levels exceeded the maximum limit. When the manufacturing company was contacted concerning that, the company replied that these parts were sold to the Israeli Air Force, and that it's used in helicopters of the type CH53.
As soon as the Israeli occupying forces invaded Ramallah, the radiation checking equipment were destroyed, including those equipment used to check the radioactive parts. Additionally, IOF blew up the environment laboratory in Hebron and Ramallah, and destroyed all the equipment by throwing them from the fifth floor.
Lately, a cargo of Israeli waste was uncovered in the city of Hebron, which was composed of 80 barrels, in addition to 120 others in the town of Al Ezareya, Jerusalem district. Furthermore, IOF moved in a cargo of 2,500 tons of radioactive base coarse, and the radiation was further confirmed when it was checked. The shipment was coming from Italy, and when the Israeli Ministry of Environment discovered that the radiation level of the base coarse was four times higher than that internationally allowed, the shipment was illegitimately diverted to Gaza City.
Unveiling the Hidden
The Israeli government has recently decided to boycott the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) after the latter made a documentary film about the Israeli nuclear weapons. Sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry explained that the film is Anti-Semitic –an accusation used by Israel to anyone or anything that they don't like.
The BBC had broadcasted previews of the documentary film, in which the narrator's voice is heard on the background of the Israeli reactor core in Dimona and the photo of Mordechai Vanunu, who revealed the Israeli nuclear secrets, and the narrator asks: Which country in the Middle East possesses nuclear weapons without declaring that? Which country in the Middle East possesses the chemical and biological ability without declaring that? Which country in the world throws away the revealer of its nuclear secrets in jail for 18 years?
As for the producer of the documentary, he interviewed several senior Israeli officials, including that chairman of the Israeli Labor party, Shimon Peres, who is also considered the godfather of the Israeli nuclear program, and the man who created the nuclear reactor in Dimona. The producer asked Peres why Iraq aren't allowed to possess nuclear weapons while Israeli can, and the answer was clearly not satisfactory, and Peres found a claim to justify this question.
As for Mordechai Vanunu, who is staying in Israeli jails since 1986, as the Israeli court indicted him of espionage, treason and selling Israeli nuclear secrets to the "Sunday Times" British newspaper, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Now, he spent 16 years of it. Vanunu said that the Israeli authorities prevented him from meeting his British lawyers. "Now, Peres won't be able to lie to [Ronald] Reagan about not owning nuclear weapons. Now everybody knows that," Vanunu said.
Israel Protecting Itself
Israel surrounds itself with all means of protection. For example, every Israeli citizen has a pill of "stable Iodine", and can be taken anytime, as it gives radiation protection.
It was revealed that Israeli provided all its citizens with such a pill, under the pretext of fearing an Iraqi nuclear strike, but the truth confirmed that they dispensed it because of fearing the meltdown of their own reactor, not only Dimona, but the other research facilities around Israel.
On the Palestinian level, the Authority of Environment Quality has tried to take some kind of protection, and sent a letter to the IAEA and Arab Ministers of Health, considering that the Palestinians are the weakest point and closest to the reactor, as Palestinian controlled lands are only 50 aerial kilometers away from Dimona reactor, but all these letters were rejected!
Among the examples that might be shown to indicate the amount of damage caused to the Palestinians due to any nuclear meltdown, the explosion that occurred in the pesticide factory in the city of Al Majdal (Ashkelon), where the stench of the pesticides reached Palestinian cities and towns due to thermal turnover and wind. Here, Dr. Abu Safiya pointed out to the danger that might happen in case an amount of radiation leaks from Dimona reactor, which will jeopardize the entire surrounding region and on a large geographical scale.