Scud Missile Landing Within 115 Ft of Dimona Would Endanger It

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The Dimona reactor.
The Dimona reactor.Credit: Google.

A Scud missile landing within 115 feet (35 meters) of a nuclear reactor such as Dimona in southern Israel could cause damage to the internal systems responsible for operating and cooling it, an Israeli study has found.

The study, published in the Journal of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science, was written by Prof. Irad Brandys, an engineer at the Dimona reactor, and professors David Ornai and Yigal Ronen, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva.

It found that a Scud missile landing within 115 feet of a standard nuclear reactor could damage the concrete dome protecting the reactor and damage the control systems and facilities responsible for operating the reactor.

The research was accepted for publication at the end of 2016 and is called “Integrated Blast Resistance Model of Nuclear Power Plant Auxiliary Facilities.”

The authors examined the most common concrete containment structures used to protect many civilian nuclear reactor vessels. They wrote that “standards, guidelines, manuals and researches refer mainly to the required protection of a nuclear power plant containment structure (where the reactor’s vessel is located) against different internal and external extreme events. However, there is no consideration regarding the man-made extreme event of external explosion resulting from air bomb or cruisemissile.” 

The scientists noted that their model must be adapted to the specific conditions and protection of each individual reactor studied. This is the first study dealing with the effect of missile attacks on nuclear reactors and, in particular, the effect on the control rooms and systems that operate them, the authors said.

In recent years, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has regularly threatened that his organization will attack the Dimona nuclear reactor if a war breaks out with Israel. It can be assumed that Israel has prepared for such a possibility and that the reactor also has many means of protection from missile fire.

The concrete containment domes were originally built to protect the environment in case of an internal explosion in the reactor, in order to keep the radiation and other dangerous materials from escaping in case of an accident. The scientists examined the results in the range between two extreme scenarios: The first in which the missile made a direct hit on the concrete containment vessel; and the other in which it landed 250 meters (820 feet) away from the reactor.

Complex calculations allowed the scientists to reach the conclusion that in the case of a missile landing more 35 meters from the reactor vessel, it could withstand such a hit. A hit closer than 35 meters could cause damage to the internal systems, though.

Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission has invested great resources in protecting the old reactor and its safety. In recent years, the reactor has received reinforcement in case of an earthquake, and every component has been welded to the floor in order to keep them from moving in case of such an event. This protection could be of great importance against missile attacks, too.

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