'Less focus on Israel expected at nuclear summit'

Official says Arab Spring takes pressure off Israel at upcoming summit in Seoul; Sorek nuke facility to be phased out by 2018.

311_dimona reactor (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_dimona reactor
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel is less concerned than it was two years ago that the Arab world will pounce on it at the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul over its reported nuclear capabilities, a top official of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission said Tuesday. This is because the Arab countries that led the charge in the past – Egypt, Syria and Libya – are not the same today.
“Egypt is not the same Egypt, Syria is not the same Syria, Libya is not the same Libya,” said David Danieli, deputy director of the IAEC.
He said if there was concern before the last Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010 that Israel would be the center of attention, the situation is different today.
“A lot of water has flowed through the Jordan since then,” he said.
Representing Israel at the nuclear summit next week will be Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor, the same minister who represented Israel at the inaugural event in Washington in 2010, which dozens of government heads attended.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however, was one head of government who did not attend that gathering, with Israeli officials at the time saying he was afraid that if he were present, the Arab states would use the opportunity not to discuss nuclear terrorism – one of the purposes of the meeting – but rather to bash Israel for its reported nuclear capability.
Danieli said there was no dramatic reason that Meridor – who attended the first meeting – would be attending this one, instead of Netanyahu.
“Today there is no active reason why the prime minister is not participating,” he said.
Although some heads of state will be in attendance, notably US President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, many other countries are sending lowerlevel ministers, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and a number of European countries.
Danieli’s remarks came at a rare briefing for journalists held at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center near Yavne.
The briefing was an apparent attempt by the IAEC to show transparency before the Seoul meeting.
The reactor at Soreq, first inaugurated in 1960 and donated by the US in the framework of president Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, is the smaller of Israel’s two nuclear reactors, the other located at Dimona. While Israel does allow two international inspections of the Soreq facility a year, it does not allow inspections at the Dimona reactor.
Israel is not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, though Danieli said the country does support the treaty’s goals. He repeated Israel’s position that it was too early to speak about a nuclear-free Middle East, and that this must come within the context of an overall peace agreement.
Danieli also said that plans call for the five-Megawatt nuclear reactor at Soreq to be phased out by 2018, and replaced by a unique electricity- based particle accelerator purchased from Germany that would serve many of the same research and medical functions as the current reactor.
The US provided Israel with a one-time stock of uranium in the 1960s, and at the end of 2009 Israel, in a barely publicized operation that took months to prepare and complete, shipped 102 spent uranium rods back to the US.
The reactor still has an additional 50 rods.
During last week’s missile attacks on the South, the reactor was shut down. Even when it is open, the reactor operates only once or twice a week.
Yair Yariv, the chief scientist at the site, said that in January Israel carried out a large exercise in Haifa called “Dark Cloud” testing the country’s ability to deal with an attack from a radioactive device.
The exercise included evacuation of those contaminated by radioactivity to hospitals, as well as testing the country’s ability to identify whether an explosion contains a radioactive element.