Israel denies claim of nuclear hazard

JERUSALEM — Israeli Environment Minister Yossi Sarid has rejected claims of a hazard posed by the Dimona nuclear complex in the Negev.

Sarid's remarks came in response to claims last week by Egypt and Saudi Arabia regarding a supposed leak from the Dimona nuclear reactor.

Sarid also received requests for clarification from ambassadors in Israel on behalf of their governments, as well as from Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan.

An investigative report on Israel Television last week claimed that tons of radioactive waste are stored in 30-year-old underground containers above a large aquifer in the Negev.

If a significant earthquake occurred near the disposal site, which is some 15 miles from an active fault line, a nuclear disaster could result, it was reported.

The television report program quoted a 7-year-old Agriculture Ministry document about problems with the nuclear-waste disposal techniques at the Dimona facility.

The document said pollution had been detected in underground water wells near the facility.

But the document apparently referred to minor leaks, because no major leaks are known to have occurred at Dimona, according to the televised report.

In a statement issued by the Environment Ministry, Sarid said radioactive waste is handled at the site with a high level of safety.

Sarid said the ministry closely monitors the air, ground and water in the area of the reactor, adding that no radioactive contamination that would constitute a danger to the population had been detected.

In response to the reports, Israel's Atomic Energy Commission said the area's geological and hydrological properties had been studied thoroughly before the Dimona center was built.