nuclear facility outside Dimona - Reuters - 03012012
The nuclear facility outside Dimona in the northern Negev. Photo by Reuters
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Nuclear activity at the reactors at Dimona and Nahal Sorek will desist should missiles attack Israel's home front. The aim of such nuclear stoppage would be to prevent damage to the reactors' outlying area, should missiles penetrate the facilities' defense shields. A decision for such a stoppage was reached by the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, in coordination with the IDF Home Front Command.

The working assumption shared by the Home Front Command and the IAEC management officials responsible for the two reactors is that the multilayered defense systems, which feature anti-missile missiles calibrated to intercept missiles at various heights, along with fortified installations, should be sufficiently effective to minimize damage in an attack against the reactors.

Nonetheless, in principle any defense system can be penetrated. For this reason, nuclear activity in the reactors will be halted should warnings come of impending war. This stoppage procedure could also be applied in non-war periods of escalated skirmishes that involve rocket attacks against Israel.

The official explanation for this policy is that activity at the reactors is carried out for research purposes, and such research work does not need to be carried out constantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The IDF and the IAEC, which is subordinate to the prime minister, are prepared for the possibility of an attempted attack on the reactors during a conflict with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas and other Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Such attacks could be carried out using missiles, rockets, planes or drones. Workers at the reactors will continue to report for duty, but will be active in specially fortified installations and bunkers, as happens with workers employed at other infrastructure or security facilities.

Dimona is located within the range of surface-to-surface missiles possessed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Rockets fired from Gaza in the direction of Ashdod-Gedera could land within the perimeter of the Nahal Sorek reactor. The Dimona reactor was attacked for the first time by Scud missiles fired from Iraq in January and February 1991. This could be seen as a belated response to the destruction of the Iraqi reactor by Israel Air Force F-16 planes in June 1981. The Iraqi missiles missed their target.

Since the establishment of the Dimona reactor at the start of the 1960s, Israel has been prepared to use planes and surface-to-air missiles to thwart reconnaissance flights and attempted attacks.

Egyptian, Soviet and even Western spy planes apparently attempted to photograph the Dimona reactor in the 1960s; but since then such flights have abated, as a result of satellite activity. Nonetheless, Israel enforces a strict ban on flights in air space around the reactor.