MK Khenin: Time to Shut Down Nuclear Reactor at Dimona

“It’s time to shut down the 53-year-old Dimona nuclear reactor,” according to a worried MK, Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List). Built in 1963 using technology acquired from France, the safe life expectancy of the reactor – officially known as the Negev Nuclear Research Center – is 40 years, according the manufacturer’s specifications.

The Negev Nuclear Research Center as viewed from a satellite in the late 1960s

The Negev Nuclear Research Center as viewed from a satellite in the late 1960s (Photo: Wikipedia)

Several members of Knesset are calling for an emergency meeting to be held to discuss the reactor’s safety and replacement. Recently, an ultrasound scan of the reactor’s core, made of metal covered in concrete, revealed 1,537 defects. In 2004, the issue of obsolescence was discussed at a symposium in Beersheba at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where officials of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission – which is responsible for the reactor at Dimona – admitted that they were encountering difficulties in upgrading the reactor’s security.

MK Khenin is among the voices calling for an emergency session on the issue. He also criticized what he called a national policy of staying mum on any nuclear issue. He said that the reactor should have been replaced long ago, and demanded that an external, expert body inspect the reactor and present a report to the Knesset.

In January 2012, media reports indicated that the Atomic Energy Commission had decided to, at least temporarily, shut down the reactor. Then the site’s vulnerability to attack from Iran was cited as the main reason for this decision.