|Israel plant a second Chernobyl: Vanunu
07/26/04 "AFP" -- Israel's nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has warned that the Middle East is at risk of a "second Chernobyl" in the event of an accident at the Jewish state's aged Dimona plant, a newspaper reported.
The London-based Al-Hayat also quoted Vanunu as implicating Israel in the assassination of US president John F Kennedy in 1963.
The 40-year-old Dimona nuclear plant in the southern Negev desert could constitute a "second Chernobyl" through any "leaking of nuclear radiation, threatening millions of people in neighbouring countries," following a possible accident, Vanunu said.
Jordan should test residents in the border regions with Israel to be sure that they have not already been exposed to any radiation and administer the necessary medicine, he said.
The Ukrainian government estimates that 15,000 people died after the number four reactor exploded at Chernobyl power plant in 1986 in the world's worst civilian nuclear catastrophe.
More than three million Ukrainians including 1.2 million children receive disability compensation as a result of Chernobyl and the radioactive contamination it caused.
Vanunu's comments were contained in extracts of an interview he gave to the Arabic-language Al-Hayat's weekly supplement Al-Wassat.
The former technician was jailed for 18 years for revelations on the inner workings at Dimona that he made to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper in 1986, effectively blowing the whistle on Israel's nuclear program.
Vanunu was released in April and has since been refused permission to travel abroad or associate with foreigners.
He also said that according to "near-certain indications", Kennedy was assassinated due to "pressure he exerted on Israel's then head of government, David Ben-Gurion, to shed light on Dimona's nuclear reactor."
Vanunu also criticised a visit to Israel earlier this month by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.
"He (ElBaradei) should have refused to visit Israel (because) he was not allowed to inspect the nuclear reactor" at Dimona, said Vanunu, who according to Al-Hayat now lives "with his Palestinian friends" in east Jerusalem.
The Israeli government has argued that Vanunu, 50, still possesses information that poses a danger to state security.
Most foreign experts believe Israel has up to 200 nuclear warheads.
© 2004 AFP