UN nuclear agency visits Sorek reactor, but Dimona out of bounds

Delegation commends Israel's high level of nuclear safety, but not allowed to visit site where nuclear weapons allegedly held.

July 11, 2013 13:40
1 minute read.
Dimona nuclear reactor

Dimona nuclear reactor. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A professional delegation from the safety and security branch of the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Israel this week to survey the degree of safety compliance at the Sorek Nuclear Research Center.

The delegation included IAEA safety specialists, as well as international experts from five countries.

The initiative for the visit came from Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission as part of an IAEA-led global effort to draw conclusions, in the aftermath of the nuclear reactor accident that occurred in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011.

However, the delegation was not allowed to visit the Dimona nuclear reactor, as Israel refuses to allow it to be placed under international supervision.

According to foreign reports, Israel’s Dimona reactor produces fissile materials – uranium and plutonium – that can be used for nuclear weapons. The IAEA conducts surveys worldwide to assess compliance with its safety standards for nations that request it to do so.

A statement released by the Commission said that the IAEA delegation commended Israel’s strengthening of national licensing system and its independence, along with Israel’s efforts to maintain a high level of nuclear safety. The statement added that the delegation pointed out many positives during its visit and gave the Commission advice on possible improvements to the safety standards.

The head of the IAEA Delegation, Mr. James Lyons, said: “The decision to invite the delegation demonstrates Israel’s strong commitment to constant improvement in the field of nuclear safety.”

Israel devotes substantial resources for maintaining and improving nuclear safety. As such, in February 2011 the government approved granting autonomous status to the unit that deals with licensing and nuclear safety.

Israel cooperates with a number of leading countries in the field of nuclear safety, and Israeli experts participate in the IAEA safety committees, which determine international standards for nuclear safety. Israel even conducts regular exercises to improve its preparedness for the possibility of a nuclear mishap.

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