(February 1, 2002) The secrecy surrounding Israel's Dimona nuclear complex slipped a little when Israeli TV for the first time carried testimony from former reactor workers and spoke out about the dangers of the complex. Their testimony echoed that of Mordechai Vanunu, who remains in prison since revealing the truth about Dimona in 1986.
(562.5371) Rayna Moss - Israel's commercial television station, Channel 2, broadcast a special report on January 18, exposing the deathly dangers of the Dimona nuclear reactor. The special report was broadcast in the framework of the Friday evening weekly news roundup, one of the most highly-rated television programs in Israel, with an audience of hundreds of thousands.
For the first time, the Israeli mass media presented to the public first-hand testimonies of former reactor workers, who tore off the cloak of secrecy shrouding the reactor and spoke out about the real and immediate dangers posed by this secret and uninspected nuclear weapons factory to workers as well as to the environment. "This report," stated the commentator, "will leave many citizens in this country sleepless."
In case after case, former employees revealed a frightening absence of safety procedures and a lack of awareness of the dangers in working in the reactor complex. "People were contaminated and went home to their families contaminated," one witness stated. Physicians who had examined the former employees and others, who studied the working conditions at the reactor, stated unequivocally that they had been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, as well as to harmful acids, solvents and chemicals.
STRIKE AT DIMONA
On January 23, the employees of the Nuclear Research Facility (NRF) in Dimona suspended work for several hours and held discussions on issues relating to safety and the treatment of employees who were injured on the job.
The employees who went on strike explained that they are concerned about their ill colleagues and are angry about the treatment that they received, but they are also worried about their own health and the very real possibility that if they are exposed to radiation, they will be denied compensation.
A court ruled in 1997 that the death in 1989 of one former worker, Haim Ita, was caused by radiation from "three local radiation accidents" at the plant (see WISE News Communique 480, "In Brief"). Despite all of this, the NRF continues to deny that employees' health has been affected by their work at the nuclear plant.
Nevertheless, in case after case, the medical administration connected to the nuclear plant denied that any of the 100 employees, some now deceased, who had contracted various cancers and other illnesses, had been harmed by their work in Dimona. Two former employees were told by the plant physician that their stomach cancers were caused by "bad eating habits, mainly consuming fatty foods." "If so," replied one, "that's still a work-related illness, since I ate two, sometimes three meals a day here, for 30 years." With regards to employees who suffer from Hodgkin's Disease and other illnesses, the official version was simply: "The employee was not exposed to radiation."
However, the employees and their lawyer revealed falsified, fraudulent and incorrect documents that were issued by the Nuclear Research Facility (NRF - the official name of the Dimona nuclear weapons plant), all concocted in order to deny the fact that the employees were indeed exposed to radiation in the course of their work. One document, supposedly representing annual inspections, was clearly manufactured by an amateur: the handwriting in all of the columns was identical; the inspection in 1976 preceded that of 1975; the findings were all the same - no exposure to radiation. In addition to robbing the ill employees, widows and orphans their right to compensation due to work-related injuries, the purpose of the organized lying was to conceal the deadly nature of the NRF.
In a message to antinuclear demonstrators gathered near the Dimona reactor in May 2000, imprisoned nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu termed the NRF "a death factory... built by people who are preparing a second Auschwitz." Fourteen years after Vanunu was kidnapped, tried in camera and imprisoned for revealing the truth about Dimona, an important part of the Israeli media is finally echoing his dire warnings.
Source and contact: Israeli Committee for Mordechai Vanunu and for a Middle East Free of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons, P.O. Box 7323, Jerusalem 91072, Israel Fax: +972-2-6254530
Write to Vanunu: Mordechai Vanunu, Hashikma Prison, Ashkelon, Israel