Ex-staffer at Dimona nuclear reactor says made to drink uranium
IAEC admits experiment at Dimona, but says amount was less than what Be'er Sheva residents drink in month. : Be'er Sheva residents drink more uranium from their taps in one month.
Workers at the nuclear reactor facility in Dimona were made to volunteer to drink uranium in 1998 as part of an experiment, according to a lawsuit filed four months ago in the Be'er Sheva Labor Tribunal by a former worker at the facility.
The experiment was allegedly carried out without obtaining written consent from the workers or warning them of risks or side effects, as required by the Declaration of Helsinki on human experimentation.
The Israel Atomic Energy Commission said in a statement that the Dimona facility "has the safety and health of its workers as its highest priority."
The commission statement added that the amount of uranium the Dimona staffers drank in the experiment (100 micrograms) was less than the amount Be'er Sheva residents drink from their taps in one month.
The worker who submitted the lawsuit, Julius Malick, recently retired after he said he was threatened by the former director of the facility, Yitzhak Gurevich, and the director of human resources, Gary Amal, that if he did not retire he would be fired.
Malick is suing the Dimona facility for a total of NIS 1.8 million in compensation. According to the suit, Malick was "asked by his superiors to take part in an experiment on five workers. In the framework of the experiment, Mr. Malick and the other workers drank uranium. The experiment was conducted without medical supervision and no explanation was given as to the health risks to participants. Mr. Malick, out of fear for his livelihood and future in the department, agreed to the demand that he participate."
Malick, who worked at the Dimona reactor for 15 years before retiring in 2008, received his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry at Bar-Ilan University. He has another degree, in industrial engineering and management, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva.
The lawsuit also notes that, while the workers did not receive the results of the experiment, an article about it appeared in the scientific journal Health Physics. According to the suit, the article, written by a number of researchers - headed by Drs. Zeev Karpas and Avi Lorber, the directors of the Dimona facility's analytical chemistry lab - included the subjects' names without their permission.
The subjects were given grape or grapefruit juice containing uranium to drink and were then asked for a urine sample, which was then analyzed to determine how uranium is excreted from the body through urine. The researchers said it was not supposed to be dangerous, Malick told his lawyer, Alexander Spinrad. "Lorber and Karpas said that even they took part in the experiment themselves, although to this day it's not clear to me whether they actually did. Afterward co-workers to whom I told this said I was stupid for drinking it and they wouldn't have agreed under any circumstances to do it," Malick also told his lawyer.
Malick, a chemist, also said that a long time after the experiment, Lorber told him it was his and Karpas' private project. "That's ridiculous, of course, because the article listed other partners, whose names appear under their names and listed as workers of the Dimona facility," Malick said.
Malick also said he once complained that no records were being kept and Karpas "joked with me and said I was making a tempest in a teapot." The suit also states that his superiors never recorded his participation in the experiment in his medical records.
The suit describes a work accident in August of 1998, in which Malick sustained a burn on his hand as a result of contact with small amounts of uranium and other materials. Malick said he received poor treatment, and that he discovered by chance that the materials to which he had been exposed in the accident were not identified in the medical report. Malick told his lawyer he believed this type of maltreatment was systematic, and the suit alludes as much.
The lawsuit also states that Malick, in an internal memo to the safety department at the Dimona reactor, warned that workers who had been exposed in an accident to radioactive materials had not received suitable medical treatment. His first position at the Dimona reactor was in the analytical chemistry lab, where his job, among other things, was to evaluate possible damage to workers exposed to hazardous materials.
In the early years, Malick's superiors highly praised his work. However, Malick claims that he was later branded as a troublemaker when he tried to improve the level of safety and medical service at the plant. He was subsequently transferred to other positions where his skills could not be put to good use, the lawsuit states, and finally he resigned under threat of dismissal. After he resigned, Malick says he was forced to sign an agreement that discriminates against him relative to other pensioners of the facility.
Malick declined to be interviewed for this article out of concern over harassment by his former employers through the plant's security officers and the head of the security department in the Defense Ministry, which is responsible for security of information and the reactor. However, he confirmed to Haaretz that he had filed the lawsuit.