Israel plans over the next 12 months to look into various options for building the nation's first atomic power plant, a top government official told Reuters this week (see GSN, March 9).
Israeli infrastructure ministry Chairman Shaul Tzemach said the feasibility assessment would aid the country's goal of having an operational power plant by 2025, as was announced in early March at a civilian nuclear power conference in Paris. Jerusalem said it was pursuing nuclear power in order to have greater energy independence.
"It's laying the groundwork so we know what the working plan should be to reach the target date," Tzemach said.
The nation possesses two nuclear sites -- the Dimona reactor in the Negev desert, where Israel is broadly thought to have created nuclear bombs, and a research facility not far from Tel Aviv that is open to U.N. monitors.
Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said Israel could construct a nuclear power plant without being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Jerusalem is not a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Joining the accord would require Israel to agree to international monitoring from the nuclear watchdog and to make clear which of its nuclear sties are military and which are nonmilitary.
Tzemach said Jerusalem was looking into collaborating with NPT member France to build the nuclear plant, though he did not elaborate on the matter. Paris aided Israel in the development of its Dimona site in the 1950s -- an effort that was led by present Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Jerusalem wants its reactor to have a fourth-generation atomic power system -- a technological innovation that is not expected to be available until around 2030. The U.S. Energy Department said the new generation of reactors would be less costly, provide greater efficiency and pose fewer proliferation dangers (Ari Rabinovitch, Reuters, March 23).