Israel eyeing nonmilitary nuclear technologies

Nat’l energy plan incomplete, so extent of nuclear needs still unclear; Landau has been pushing nuclear power in order for the country to meet long-term energy needs.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
September 6, 2010 01:18
2 minute read.
Uzi Landau

Uzi Landau. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Israel is moving forward with plans to build civilian nuclear power plants, although no specific goals have been set, The Jerusalem Post was told on Sunday.

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) has been pushing nuclear power as a way for the country to meet its long-term energy needs, and it will feature as part of the ministry’s national master plan for energy, once it is drawn up. It issued a tender last month for a consultant.

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However, since the master plan is far from complete, the ministry does not know what percentage of electricity production would come from nuclear power, or what percentage it would comprise of the fuel basket, if at all, the Post was told.

Any nuclear plans are at the very least a decade away from fruition.

Israel has been talking to France about fourth-generation nuclear reactors that are still largely under development.

It’s likely that once such reactors are deployed in France, Israel would wait further to see how they perform, the source said.

Nevertheless, Électricité de France Chairman Henri Proglio is expected to visit here sometime this year, EnergiaNews reported late last week. France is a leader in nuclear technology.

Eighty percent of the country’s electricity is produced by nuclear reactors.

In March, Landau led a delegation to a nuclear energy conference in Paris, where he told news agencies that Israel was interested in a civilian nuclear option.

Nuclear power has experienced a resurgence in the face of the pollution caused by fossil fuels. Some argue that it’s cleaner than coal, while others are still haunted by 1986’s Chernobyl reactor meltdown in Ukraine and the potential for catastrophe that is not inherent in coal or natural gas generators.

Despite the very large natural gas fields recently discovered off the coast of Haifa, Israel is pursuing a variety of fuel options.

Energy security dictates diversifying fuel sources to prevent shortages or outages.

What remains unclear, despite Israel’s interest in civilian nuclear power, is the issue of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT. Israel is not a signatory.

It has maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity since the late 1950s and has consistently vowed not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. France allegedly provided Israel with the nuclear technology to construct an arsenal.

Faced with an emerging Iranian nuclear threat, it is certain that Israel will prefer not to forgo any military advantage, making it highly unlikely that it will sign the NPT anytime soon.

Whether Israel can build civilian nuclear reactors under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency without signing the NPT is an unanswered question.


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