Radiation Near Nuclear Center is Higher Than Normal, but ‘safe’

Radiation levels at certain spots in a Negev hiking area, not far from Dimona’s nuclear research center, are higher than the national average but safe for hikers, Environment Minister Yossi Sarid has announced.

Sarid made the comments over the weekend in the wake of reports two weeks ago that radioactive waste had leaked from Israel’s top-secret nuclear facility in Dimona, believed to house the country’s nuclear weapons program.

Ministry officials checked radiation levels around the installation on the outskirts of Dimona and in the area of Little Crater, south of Dimona, and compared these levels with spot checks taken around the country.

The results, which were not released for publication, show that Little Crater, an area visited by hikers, is safe from a health and environmental point of view, Sarid said.

Slightly higher than normal radiation levels found at some specific points were believed to be remnants of the Chernobyl fallout in Ukraine in 1986, the minister said.

But Sarid added that it was reasonable to suppose that some insignificant rises in radiation levels measured at other points “come from, among other things, the sewage which came in the past from the oxidation ponds of the Negev Nuclear Research Center.

“To prevent doubts in this area, and also out of general environmental considerations,” he said, the Nuclear Research Center “has already taken various steps to stop sewage water from reaching the crater.”

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