Two weeks ago, Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior dropped anchor in Israel. Members of the organization in Israel and those who arrived on the ship attempted to convey their determined, consistent message regarding the danger of nuclear technology to the Israeli public.
What makes the current visit special is the fact that it is part of a campaign taking place in many countries in the region, including Iran. It may sound naive but it makes sense for all the nations in the region to heed the warnings of the green organization that gained vast knowledge and experience in its attempts to prevent the dangers of nuclear proliferation. In Israel, it is particularly important to hear the organization's message because of the policy of silence adopted by local environmental organizations regarding all nuclear matters.
The group's central message is that use of nuclear technology is dangerous in all stages and all contexts. This is not only true in weapons manufacture but also in development of thermo-nuclear reactors for the sake of producing energy. Both uses are intertwined because, as Greenpeace members noted, nuclear knowledge used in civilian applications is later used to develop arms.
Production and use of radioactive materials exposes many people in Israel and neighboring countries to constant risk. Damage to thermo-nuclear reactors from earthquakes, technical mishaps that cause leaks, and damage sustained in military operations could engender a crisis that nations like Israel, Lebanon or Jordan would not be able to recover from because of their small size.
Even if one accepts Israeli security establishment claims that nuclear facilities in the nation are managed with utmost safety, there is still the problem of nuclear waste disposal. Thermo-nuclear reactors produce waste that will remain toxic for tens of thousands of years. In Israel's case, this represents a consistent threat to future generations.
Professor Uri Marinov, a member of the team that drafted the master plan that guides Israel's energy sector and a man who is not identified with radical environmentalism, outlined the risks of using existing thermo-nuclear reactors to produce energy in a recently published article.
"While nuclear reactors have the advantage that they do not emit greenhouse gases, this is their only advantage, and there are a lot of significant liabilities that counter it," Marinov wrote. After describing the risk of toxic nuclear waste and the danger of operating thermo-nuclear reactors, Marinov added, "Research conducted a few years ago in the United States indicated that there are insufficient means of transportation in the United States to evacuate people in the event of serious mishaps at nuclear reactors. Such incidents have already taken place in several places, not only in Chernobyl. A considerable number of those incidents were not made public, in order to avoid widespread panic."
The Israeli security establishment typically turns a blind eye to Greenpeace's anti-nuclear activities. This is based on the assumption that the legendary ship's docking and a few press conferences called by green organizations pose no danger to covert implementation of Israel's policies. The only security officials who related to Greenpeace members in the past were environmental protection ministers, but the current visit marked deteriorating relations in this arena, as well. Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra, who initially agreed to visit the ship, dramatically announced that he was canceling his visit because he was angry at Greenpeace for publishing information pertaining to Israel's nuclear facilities.
Ezra is fully aware that this information has been published on dozens, if not hundreds, of occasions in foreign and local press. He apparently found distasteful arguments regarding the question of why Israel needs nuclear facilities and how they benefit the nation's security, health and environmental protection.
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