A pan-Middle East nuclear power plan? Arabs and Israelis working together?
While Israel continues to maintain a policy of ambiguity regarding its military nuclear capability, it is making no secret about its plans to pursue a nuclear option to meet its energy needs. The minister of infrastructure, Uzi Landau, officially announced today that Israel seeks to build nuclear power plants in cooperation with “scientists and engineers from our Arab neighbors,” the AP reported.
Landau made the announcement at the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris. Representatives from some 60 nations, including a number of Arab states, are gathered at the two-day conference. Iran, which is suspected of pursuing a military nuclear capability, was not invited to the talks. But Syria, which has also come under scrutiny for harboring military nuclear ambitions, is attending the conference.
The Israeli minister pledged at the conference that all nuclear plants built in Israel would be subject to strict safety and security controls: “Israel has always considered nuclear power to partially replace its dependence on coal,” he added.
Ministry spokesman Chen Lulu said that Landau envisions a joint nuclear project between Jordan and Israel, with French assistance and technology. “He mentioned this three months ago to French Ecology Minister (Jean-Louis) Borloo, who showed great interest and said he would discuss it with President (Nicolas) Sarkozy,” Lulu said.
A potential obstacle to Israel’s plans for nuclear power is the fact that it is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has indicated that it would not join a Mideast nuclear-free zone being promoted by the United States.
However, the Israeli business newspaper Globes recently suggested that “Israel may be able to bypass this obstacle on the basis of the precedent-setting agreement between the U.S. and India, another country that has not signed the treaty.”