It’s a “catch 22”- The very thing that could ultimately afford Israel the tools to build a new reactor would also prevent it from using the reactor as a nuclear deterrent.
The moment of truth for Israel’s nuclear policy is nearing. Haim Levinson’s publication yesterday in Ha’aretz regarding the defects in the core of the nuclear reactor in Dimona only emphasizes this fact.
Such reactors are normally taken out of service after 40 years or so. Ultrasound examinations found 1537 flaws in the metal core in Dimona, scientist from the facility reported earlier this month, Levinson wrote in Ha’aretz.
The awareness of these flaws and the projection of their development was extant since the inception of the nuclear reactor. In 2004 similar findings were revealed at a symposium at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, where senior officials of the Atomic Energy Commission, which is responsible for the reactor in Dimona, admitted that they were encountering difficulties in upgrading the security of the reactor.
The reactor in Dimona, that Israel acquired from France, began to function in 1963. According to the manufacturer’s standards, the lifetime of reactors of this type is forty years.
Today, the reactor in Dimona is 53 years old and has repeatedly received “anti-aging treatment”; the most advanced in the world, but until when? If we rely on the words of Gidon Frank from the convention, then the reactor has another seven years to its life. By then there will be no alternative but to disable the reactor.
The technological problems create a huge dilemma for the longtime Israeli strategy of deterrence. The reactor that Israel acquired from France, had, according to foreign reports, 24 megawatt capacity and was to be used for research purposes. According to these same sources Israel increased its output to 50 megawatts, possibly even more.
According to these foreign reports, since its activation, Israel’s reactor has been manufacturing uranium and plutonium, which are the fissile materials for the construction of nuclear weapons. These reports said that the proponents of Israeli nuclear development believed that nuclear weapons would serve as a deterrent and secure Israel’s existence for generations.
Concurrently, they also formulated the Israeli policy of nuclear ambiguity, which neither admitted nor denied the existence of nuclear weapons.