Home > Diplomacy > Maariv: How to build another nuclear reactor without signing the NPT

Maariv: How to build another nuclear reactor without signing the NPT

Dimona nuclear reactor Dome

Like most of the world, Israel is facing a major energy crisis. Our population is growing and per-capita energy consumption is on the rise.

Nuclear energy is emerging as the solution favored by the government, as reported in a December 8 2010 Maariv feature [full translation at the bottom of this post]:

Israel’s efforts to build a nuclear power plant are the result of a report prepared by a large international energy company, which was submitted to the Infrastructure Ministry.  The report states that a nuclear plant is the best solution, given the energy situation in Israel — both in economic terms and in terms of ensuring Israel’s energy supply.

According to the report, Israel is not capable of carrying out such a project on its own — and therefore it would have to purchase a reactor as an “off-the-shelf product” from one of the prominent manufacturers in the market, such as the French company AREVA or the American company Westinghouse.

But there’s a snag.

Until now, Israel has encountered strong opposition by the world — mainly on the part of the United States — to manufacturing electricity from a nuclear plant in Israel, since it is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Our leaders, however, always have a “creative solution” (most Israelis would call it a “combina”) up their sleeves.

However, the Infrastructure Ministry, with the support of the prime minister, is examining a creative possibility for circumventing the international opposition: To declare the site of the power plant that will be built as an ex-territorial area to the State of Israel.  This means that a foreign company, French or American, will build the reactor and also own the land upon which it is located.  Senior Infrastructure Ministry officials say that this means that the land will not be under Israeli sovereignty, and it will be possible to bypass the obstacle in this manner.

What if the Americans don’t share our enthusiasm for the “combina”? One of our leading scientists thinks that threatening them with suicide will yield acquiescence:

Another problem discussed [at a recent conference] is the unwillingness of countries to sell Israel off-the-shelf reactors. Professor [Arie] Dubi [of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Ben Gurion University] offered a solution: “Israel should publish a tender, oriented towards the Russians and Chinese, for purchase of the knowledge necessary to plan and build a nuclear reactor. Then the Americans will run after us — because the Russian and Chinese reactors are less safe.”

—-

Foreign nuclear plant may be built in Israel is em

Ronit Morgenstern, Maariv, December 8 2010 [Hebrew original here]

Has the Israeli government found a creative way to build a nuclear power plant?  Until now, Israel has encountered strong opposition by the world — mainly on the part of the United States — to manufacturing electricity from a nuclear plant in Israel, since it is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

However, the Infrastructure Ministry, with the support of the prime minister, is examining a creative possibility for circumventing the international opposition: To declare the site of the power plant that will be built as an ex-territorial area to the State of Israel.  This means that a foreign company, French or American, will build the reactor and also own the land upon which it is located.  Senior Infrastructure Ministry officials say that this means that the land will not be under Israeli sovereignty, and it will be possible to bypass the obstacle in this manner.

Israel’s efforts to build a nuclear power plant are the result of a report prepared by a large international energy company, which was submitted to the Infrastructure Ministry.  The report states that a nuclear plant is the best solution, given the energy situation in Israel — both in economic terms and in terms of ensuring Israel’s energy supply.

According to the report, Israel is not capable of carrying out such a project on its own — and therefore it would have to purchase a reactor as an “off-the-shelf product” from one of the prominent manufacturers in the market, such as the French company AREVA or the American company Westinghouse.

The Infrastructure Ministry and Israel Electric Corporation are already preparing to build a nuclear power plant: The Israel Atomic Energy Commission is currently conducting, together with the Infrastructure Ministry, a joint feasibility study for building nuclear reactors for producing electricity in Israel.  The results of the study are due to be published at the start of 2011, and will address all the aspects related to nuclear power plants: Safety, economic profitability, new technologies in the field and geopolitical aspects.

Besides the option of building the plant as an ex-territorial entity, the possibility has arisen of building a nuclear power plant in the Indian format — in other words, without signing the NPT.  India is not a signatory of the NPT, and has conducted a public nuclear test, but it enables international supervision of its civilian nuclear facilities.  The Israel Atomic Energy Commission has announced that it would enable supervision of such a power plant by international agencies, and the prime minister discussed such a possibility with US President Barack Obama.

There have been plans to build a nuclear power plant in Israel since the 1960s.  The state has reserved a special site for this purpose in the Shivta area in the Negev.  This site is supposed to have a power plant that will supply about 1,200 megawatts, which are about 10% of Israel’s current electricity production capacity.

The next generation of reactors

However, Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau has said in the past that his ministry intends to build small reactors of about 200 megawatts.  These are reactors from the next generation, which produce a small quantity of nuclear waste that can be controlled.  “In the long term, there will be no choice but to manufacture electricity from nuclear energy, because renewable energies (solar, wind and the like — RM) will never be able to provide more than one third of Israel’s electricity,” the minister said.

For the sake of comparison, in France — about 75% of the electricity production comes from nuclear reactors, in Lithuania — 73% and in Belgium — 54%.  The Chinese currently have about 30 nuclear reactors and over 200 more are planned.  In Europe as a whole, about one third of the electricity is produced by nuclear reactors.

According to a study conducted by the Israel Electric Corporation, which was presented at the conference of the Society of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in Israel, there is a need for 20 million cubic meters of water per year to cool the nuclear reactor that will be built in Shivta.  However, no problem is expected with the water supply, since there is a saline water reservoir in the area, and the Shafdan purification plant—which has a reservoir of 140 million cubic meters from recycling waste water — can supply water to the area.

Several months ago, the Israel Electric Corporation and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission agreed on a joint working plan.  The goal of the plan is to preserve and promote the knowledge and the ability accumulated until now in the nuclear plant field, and for it to serve as a basis for receiving, purchasing and operating a future nuclear power plant in Israel.

In addition to the testing and research conducted by these bodies, part of the infrastructure preparation for the establishment of a nuclear reactor in Israel will include cooperation with the Israeli academe to open a BA program in electrical engineering specializing in nuclear engineering. On the other hand, Ben Gurion University is closing its nuclear engineering department next year.

“Bollocks”

Professor Arie Dubi of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Ben Gurion University said at the conference of the Electrical and Electronic Engineers Union that “the amount of fuel in the world is in decline — 200 hundred years of oil, coal and gas will be finished within 50 years.” He added that the only [alternative] energy that is technologically mature, dependable, and available is nuclear energy. “The Greens’ idea — that we eat bananas and climb trees — is bollocks,” Dubi attacked. “They still drive cars and use electricity at home.”

Dr. Leib Reznick of the the Israel Electric Company said at the conference that “Instead of millions of tons of coal or billions of cubic meters of natural gas, one truck is enough to produce 1,ooo megawatts of [nuclear generated] electricity. Jordan is building a nuclear reactor, Turkey has four and Egypt is also planning one.”

Yitzhak Gurvitz of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission added that “we shouldn’t be frightened of nuclear energy.” He said that one of the problems is fiscal: “We’re talking about billions of dollars to build reactors that will generate a few thousand megawatts of electricity.” The Infrastructure Ministry is now trying to solve an additional problem that Gurvitz pointed to — the fact that Israel isn’t a signatory to the NPT.

Dr. Ilan Yaar of the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona suggested at the conference that Israel buy a off-the-shelf reactor “that has already been approved and is, therefore, safe.” He said that that the current problem is political, but can be solved through through an ex-territorial zone or a joint Israeli-Jordanian reactor. “The condition for both these solutions is serious progress towards a peace agreement,” said Yaar.

Another problem discussed is the unwillingness of countries to sell Israel off-the-shelf reactors. Professor Dubi offered a solution: “Israel should publish a tender, oriented towards the Russians and Chinese, for purchase of the knowledge necessary to plan and build a nuclear reactor. The the Americans will run after us — because the Russian and Chinese reactors are less safe.”

Categories: Diplomacy
  1. thelonecabbage
    December 12, 2010 at 17:10 | #1

    3rd gen small sealed reactors are a good start. But we should be putting our national efforts into developing thorium cycle, either liquid or solid fuel like the Indians. The only abundant domestic nuclear fuel in Israel is thorium. Uranium (non-breeder) reactors leave us dependent on foreign sources of fuel. Such reactors aren’t “off-the-shelf”, but would offer Israeli R&D another Lavi style project to drive national development.

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