Nuclear Power plant 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP [illustrative])
National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau left Sunday for an international civilian nuclear power conference in Paris at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
At the conference, co-sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Landau was expected to announce Israel’s interest in producing electricity through civilian nuclear power plants.
Israel is in the grips of an electricity crisis no less severe than the better-known water crisis. Reserves are at two percent and continued environmental objections have so far stymied efforts to build another coal-fired power plant in Ashkelon.
A nuclear option to produce electricity, with its attendant hazards, could nevertheless present Israel with the best option for generating non-emissions-producing electricity in significant quantities.
Nuclear, hydro and coal are considered the mainstays of baseload electricity production, and hydroelectric production is not an option in arid Israel. A nuclear option, though, would take years to develop and would not be considered a short-term solution to the current crisis.
The most obvious stumbling block is the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Israel is not a signatory, preferring to maintain an “ambiguous” posture regarding the possession of nuclear weapons.
To build a civilian nuclear power plant would necessitate some sort of reconciliation with the terms of the treaty or a way to bypass it altogether. Various possibilities are apparently being considered.
The example of India has been examined in expert circles. India is not a signatory to the NPT but has been allowed to develop civilian nuclear power.
Israel was invited to participate in the international conference by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Landau met not long ago with French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo and discussed the possibility of a joint nuclear project between Jordan, Israel and France.
France is the world leader in electricity production from nuclear power; 80% of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear power plants.
The Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) and the Israel Electric
Corporation recently announced that they would begin planning the
infrastructure for a civilian nuclear plant and that they planned to
open a new course to train nuclear electrical engineers.
Former IAEC director-general Uzi Eilam mentioned at the Herzliya
Conference last month that a new generation of trained personnel was
needed, since the necessary skilled personnel were all nearing