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      Dimona In Arab IAEA Delegates Crosshairs, Again

      Arab ministers attending next weeks IAEA conference are expected to press for more safety protocols with special attention on the Mideast, Israel.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 6/17/2011, 1:57 PM / Last Update: 6/17/2011, 2:03 PM

      (file)

      Arab countries plan to demand more robust safety regulations on nuclear facilities worldwide, with a particular focus on reactors in the Middle East, Arab Times reports. The push is expected to come at the upcoming International Nuclear Safety Conference in Vienna on Monday.

      Sources at International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Arab energy and power ministers will attend the ministerial conference that will be held at IAEA headquarters next week.

      The five-day conference is focused on reevaluating currently applied nuclear safety rules at nuclear reactors to avoid disasters such as the one that occurred in Japan’s Fukushima plant, in March.

      But Arab delegations are expected to try to put attention on the Dimona reactor in Israel, which they claim has been "overlooked" by IAEA inspectors for decades. Sources say they will stress that nuclear safety rules should be enforced, and inspections conducted, at the "neglected plant."

      Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, as a result, is not, contrary to Arab claims, obligated to allow IAEA inspectors into its nuclear facilities, or abide by the international body's mandates regarding plant function.

      While the research reactor Dimona reactor is quite old for a functioning reactor, and there is discussion of decommissioning the facility or replacing the core, it has been well-maintained by Israeli nuclear efforts and does not pose the same risks the industrial Fukushima plant, in an earthquake and tsunami prone zone, did.

      It is unclear whether Arab ministers, whose nations are on edge over Iran's nuclear program and aggressive posture in the region, will try to bring any focus on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

      A massive earthquake-tsunami double-header in March crippled the Japanese Fukushima plant and sparked calls for tougher global safety measures and prompting some governments to reconsider their nuclear energy strategies.

      IAEA chief Yukiya Amano therefore invited members of the IAEA last month to attend this nuclear safety conference to give a bigger attention to nuclear safety rules and promote transparency in exchanging information on nuclear accidents.