Jordan Times
Saturday, September 26, 1998

No abnormal radioactivity in Jordan from Dimona nuclear plant — officials

By Ahmad Khatib

   AMMAN — After reports in the local press last week claimed that Israel's nuclear reactor in the Negev desert was posing a threat of radioactivity in the region, officials here Friday said daily tests “have not found any abnormal nuclear radioactivity” in Jordan.

“The measurements are in the normal range,” Minister of Water and Energy Hani Mulki told the Jordan Times. “We are following up the issue with concerned parties to keep monitoring any possible changes in areas near the reactor.”

Israel's Dimona reactor, south of Hebron, is about 60 kilometres west of Karak across the Jordan Valley.

It was built over 40 years ago and is capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. Press reports have said that Israel has built between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads at Dimona.

Mulki stressed that all nuclear facilities should be supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Jordan has made this message clear at the agency's week-long general assembly [which ended yesterday in Austria],” the minister added.

Although Israel has never officially admitted having nuclear weapons, it agreed in August to drop its opposition to the launch of United Nations negotiations on banning production of nuclear weapons materials, on condition that it would not be forced to accept international inspections of its nuclear facilities.

A draft resolution signed by Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Libya, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen called for Israel, the only state in the Middle East region that is not party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to accede to it without further delay.

It demanded that Israel “not develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons and to renounce possession of nuclear weapons, and to place all its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under the full scope of the agency safeguards.”

The agency is considering the Arab states' resolution.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres virtually acknowledged that Israel possessed nuclear weapons during a visit to Jordan in July.

“We built a nuclear option, not to in order to have a Hiroshima, but to have an Oslo,” Peres told an audience of academics and the media in Amman on July 13.

Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Tawfiq Kreishan told the Jordan Times that the Ministry of Energy and other involved parties are continuously coordinating to face any developments that might occur concerning the Dimona plant.

He said, however, “there are no confirmations” on possible nuclear radioactivity threatening Jordan.

Some local columnists warned against what they called a “veiled nuclear strategy” adopted by consecutive Israeli governments which, they said, keeps regional tensions high because of the uncertainty surrounding Israel's nuclear programme.

They hoped that the Arab effort at the agency's meeting would eventually force Israel to yield to international pressure, especially following reported signs of possible nuclear leakage or “even an explosion” at Dimona.