March/April 2010

Israel to build civilian nuclear plants

Israel said in March that it intends to develop civilian nuclear plants for energy, offering to build one as a joint project with Jordan, under French supervision.

According to The New York Times, the Israeli infrastructure minister, Uzi Landau, said Israel wanted a cleaner, more reliable source of energy than the large amounts of coal now imported. He said regional cooperation on civilian nuclear power could help bind the Middle East.

Jordan, however, said any such cooperation was premature before a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran, already subject to sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, insists that its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes, but Western governments believe its intentions are military. Still, Israel's announcement here may further complicate efforts to get the Security Council to impose new sanctions on Iran.

Israel has never admitted that it has nuclear weapons, and it has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Landau said any nuclear power plant would be subject to international safeguards.

Israel has chosen a location in the northern Negev desert. "In a region like the Middle East, we can only depend on ourselves," Landau said. "Building a nuclear reactor to produce electricity will allow Israel to develop energy independence."