MK Khenin Submits Query over Dimona Radiation, Worker Health

Following court testimony on Wednesday that workers at the Negev Nuclear Research Center had been exposed to dangerously high radiation levels, Health and Environment Committee Chair MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) submitted a parliamentary query to the defense minister, citing worker complaints that the director of security of the defense establishment (DSDE) exposed them to these threats.

The statements testifying to the workers’ hazardous level of exposure had been delivered by the former head of safety at the Sorek nuclear research center, Dr. Thelma Byrne. “The Dimona reactor is old, and as such is dangerous, and the time has come to have a serious and thorough debate about its environmental implications, health and safety,” MK Khenin said.

Dr. Byrne, former head of safety at the Sorek nuclear research center, said Wednesday that the amount of nuclear radiation workers were exposed to, was significantly more than today’s legal limit. “Dimona workers were exposed to more radiation in a day than the safe limit for a year,” she said in her witness testimony.

Nuclear workers are engaged in a long compensation battle against the state after being exposed to what they claim were unsafe levels of radiation while working in Dimona and Nahal Sorek. Of the 44 workers that filed the suit in the mid- ’90s, nearly half have died of cancer.

Byrne said, “We were constantly being contaminated, and they didn’t tell us what we were being exposed to. There was no such thing as nuclear core safety. Safety concerns were insignificant.” She also claimed that witnesses were being harassed by government officials.

Following her first testimony approximately two months ago, Byrne claimed that a government official “called me, accused me of violating censorship laws, and threatened to take me to court. I don’t think this should have made it to court,” she said.