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Early Atomic Capability by Israel Denied by Top U.S. Nuclear Expert

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Widespread reports that Israel has the capability of producing an atomic bomb in a few months are exaggerations, Dr. Glenn Seaborg, chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, asserted last night. He expressed that view in reply to a question after a lecture at the Weizmann Institute at Rehovot.

Dr. Seaborg left Israel today after a three-day visit, during which he met Prime Minister Levi Eshkol as well as Israeli atomic scientists, some of whom he had met previously at scientific conferences. He also visited an Israeli nuclear reactor and science laboratories in this country.

It was learned that the question of United States-Israeli cooperation on desalination was broached only in very general terms during Dr. Seaborg’s meeting with Premier Eshkol. Dr. Seaborg explained a planned United States nuclear desalting plant to be established in California, and listened to a summation of Israel’s needs. The United States had agreed to help finance a $200, 000, 000 pioneer plant in Israel to test the feasibility of the use of nuclear energy for desalination of seawater. The atomic expert said he believed Israel would be using atomic plants to produce much of its electricity needs in the 70’s.

He indicated that his visit here had been mainly private, adding, in reply to questions that, “of course,” he had met Israel’s atomic scientists. He said that he had stopped in Israel enroute home from Vienna, mainly because he wanted to see the country he had heard so much about. Asked whether he would report to President Johnson on his findings in Israel, Dr. Seaborg replied he would do so if he was asked.

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