09/26/2017, 18.25
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For activist, Israeli taboo about nuclear issues endangers health

There is no awareness about the risks of nuclear power. The security of citizens must be the priority. The Dimona plant has had 1,500 faults, but no one knows what or where. The prime minister's statements about Iran are accepted as factual even though they contain no facts. Civil society groups must become involved.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) –  In Israel, the taboo of nuclear power is a danger to the country and the health of its citizens, this according to Sharon Dolev, head of Israel’s disarmament movement.

Along with others, the anti-nuclear activist had filed a petition before the Israeli Supreme Court calling for greater transparency in Israel’s nuclear programme, but the application was rejected on 12 September.

The complainants said that the oversight function of the Israeli Atomic Energy (IAEC) Commission was never legally regulated since its foundation in 1952, but is based on a secret administrative order issued by then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.

While saying the issue “is a worthy issue for public debate,” and taking the historic step of holding hearings on the issue, the court said the Knesset and not the judicial branch should decide the issue.

For its part, the government maintains that the activities of the Commission are already subject to oversight.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Dolev said that the ambiguity and secrecy that surround nuclear power in the country has made it impossible to monitor such facilities, and this endangers people's health.

An obvious example is the Dimona nuclear power plant, which has been active since the early 1960s.

"The IAEC said that there are 1,500 faults in the reactor’” she said, but the media tend not to ask questions about problems, what they are, where they are, why they are revealed only now.

The old reactor is “without supervision” and “citizens that don't know the dangers of nuclear facilities. Without oversight, there can be accidents not reported, radiation leaks, problems with the storage of the radioactive waste, and so on.”

Just last week, the government reached an agreement with 168 former Dimona employees who suffer from cancer to pay them NIS 78 million ( million).

The agreement follows years of legal wrangling. In 2013 a committee was set up, headed by the deputy head of the Supreme Court at the time, Eliezer Rivlin, to rule on whether the cancer was caused by the work done at the research facility.

The committee gave its verdict at the end of 2015. Although it concluded that there was no direct link, it nevertheless recommended that the state compensate the workers, to avoid having to discuss details of the top-secret Dimona plant in court.

“When we don't talk about it, there is no pressure on the IAEC to care about the safety of the people first,” Dolev said.

“It also harms democracy when not just citizens, but also the media and the parliament get used to not talking or thinking about important issues – in the name of security, forgetting that security is first the security of the citizens.”

The same goes with respect with Iran. "When we talk about Iran, most people in Israel, because of the discourse of the Prime Minister and the media [. . .] believe that Iran has nuclear weapons, or that Iran will have them, and when Iran will have them they’ll use them against Israel.

“This is a kind of idea that can come only out of ignorance. It’s talking without asking question. Because Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, because Iran signed a deal. Even if it’s not a perfect deal, it’s working, and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) doesn’t think that they’re in breach.”

However, things are changing. "I am very happy to see that more and more people are willing" to talk about it. “That’s a new thing for us. It took time. Last week, [. . .] For the first time they wanted to hear the other side. And for us this is a huge step forward.”

Israel, along with India, Pakistan and North Korea, is one of four states with nuclear weapons that have not ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 1988, a former technician at the Negev Nuclear Research Centre in Dimona, Mordechai Vanunu, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for high treason and espionage after he disclosed details about the plant and Israel’s nuclear arsenal. He is currently under house arrest after giving an interview to Channel 2 in 2015.

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