Iran strike on Dimona nuclear reactor would not cause disaster, says former atomic energy chief

An investigative report on Israel’s nuclear plant emphasizes the safeguards put in place to prevent catastrophe

The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from a satellite. (United States Government)
The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from a satellite. (United States Government)

An Iranian strike on the Dimona nuclear reactor does not hold potentially disastrous consequences for Israel, the former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission said in a documentary on Israel’s nuclear program broadcast Sunday on Channel 10.

According to Brigadier General (Ret.) Uzi Eilam, there are two factors that should prevent a Chernobyl-scale nuclear disaster in the event of an aerial strike on the reactor, which is located 13 kilometers south-east of the city of Dimona.

The first is the small size of the reactor relative to enormous nuclear installations like Chernobyl in the Ukraine or the Japanese Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, the sites of history’s two major nuclear power plant accidents.

The second factor is a specially installed defense mechanism that aborts the activity of the reactor in the event of an attack. According to Eilam, this is crucial for reducing nuclear fallout, which is nowhere near as dangerous in the case of a deactivated reactor as it is with an active one.

The Channel 10 report was broadcast at a time of profound tension between Israel and Iran, with Tehran repeatedly threatening dire consequences for Israel were it to resort to military intervention to thwart the Islamic Republic’s nuclear drive.

The report also offered an examination of Israel’s policy of ambiguity on its nuclear development, neither confirming nor denying possession of nuclear weapons.

Not declaring itself a nuclear state means that Israel continues to enjoy American support and is not subject to US sanctions against nuclear states. Yet, according to analysts, there is an internal price to pay, as the consequences of the official policy of vagueness can include a lack of accountability on so key an issue.

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