I think, in the case of such small countries, the existence of the peaceful nuclear energy production is probably more a political and not an economical question. It is because even a single power plant has a larger effect to the whole country.

As it is known, they have a research reactor in Dimona since many decades. Not very clearly admittedly, also a large nuclear weapon stockpile was created with it. Behind the mask of the peaceful energy production, they could hide much better the military one.

Furthermore, without oil reserves, and having historically terrible relations with its neighbours, having a large part of the oil reserves of the Earth, increasing the independence from the fossil fuels seems to have an above average importance.

Typically, Israel seems also to invest above average effort to overcome its positional disadvantages (example).

I think logic had dictated them already in the sixties, to build at least a single peaceful nuclear power plant, beside their nuclear weapon program.

Why hasn't it happened?

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    It's a very good question, but is there anything you wish to know that an existing Wikipedia article does not address? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_energy_in_Israel
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 1:39
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    If you were a country surrounded by other countries shooting rockets at you, would you want to build a nuclear reactor? Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 3:49
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    @DrunkCynic By that logic, they shouldn't have built that other reactor at Dimona, but they did. Actually the main reason can be found in the relevant wikipedia article: they are not a signatary of the Non-proliferation treaty and as such they'd have to build a reactor of their own technology, with no external help. It was probably un-economic in the sixties and way worse today, with all the natural gas reserves they have found and the strict post-Fukushima regulations on nuclear power.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 10:41
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    Having one nuclear reactor for research and other things with a potentially small nuclear inventory poses less risk than having a couple of nuclear powerplants with a large nuclear inventory. It comes down to balancing potential risks versus the potential gain. Having nukes is a big gain and worth some risk; producing electricity is a minor gain (as you can also generate electricity from other sources) that isn't worth taking any risks.
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 12:01
  • Israel actually has two research reactors. The other one is the lesser known reactor at Soreq, near Yavne. Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 12:19

1 Answer 1


The main problem is the Dimona reactor in which Israel's nuclear warheads are produced. Israel has not signed the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not allow inspectors in the facility.

From Nuclear energy and desalination in Israel by Or Rabinowitz:

This facility was never placed under IAEA safeguards or any other international controls, with the exception of several limited inspections by American scientists during the 1960s (Cohen 2010). Israel’s refusal to place Dimona under safeguards and open it for full inspection has been the biggest obstacle to its attempts to develop nuclear energy.

Since Israel didn't sign the NPT it couldn't import reactors from the US:

Jimmy Carter’s victory brought an end to the Nixon/Ford initiative. Carter’s administration supported a stringent nonproliferation policy, embodied in the adoption of the 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, which established strict conditions for nuclear exports. These included the demand that any state wishing to buy nuclear technology would be required to place all of its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. Since Israel refused to place Dimona under safeguards, this meant that it was no longer eligible to purchase American nuclear reactors.

Another problem is Israel's small size:

Of particular concern is the fact that since Israel is geographically small, a single nuclear accident could, in theory, immediately pollute and affect the entire country or large parts of it, poisoning underground water sources with radioactive pollution, and contaminating residential and agricultural lands with radioactive fallout (Grantz 2010). The fear of a major nuclear malfunction is aggravated by two factors: First, Israel is situated in the Great Rift Valley, an area prone to earthquakes; and second, Israel is engaged in an ongoing regional conflict, confronting both state and non-state actors. Hostile actors might execute an attack against an Israeli nuclear reactor, despite the fact that Israel’s Arab neighbors would also be affected.

Not mentioned in the article is that it also has very few locations in which radioactive waste can be stored. The Negev is likely the best location for it but is still less than ideal due to the lack of mountainous terrain. Most other population-wise small countries are large enough so that both the nuclear plant and the waste can be put "out of sight, out of mind" but not so with Israel. Then there is the whole "holy land" thing. A nuclear disaster in Israel would literally be of biblical proportions.

Israel is dependent on desalination plants for its fresh water supply and those requires a lot of electricity to run. But recently there has been several major breakthroughs in desalination technology making it much more energy efficient so the need for electricity is decreasing. Plus, Israel's relations with its neighbours is continually improving so relying on imports of fossil fuel from the Arab countries is not such a big deal anymore.

Another big problem is that nuclear power doesn't make economic sense anymore which is why very few new reactors are commissioned. The huge upfront cost and the limited lifetime of the plant makes solar and wind energy competitive with it.

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    Pakistan and India both are very much non-NPT states but have active civil reactors. China has been selling to Pakistan and everybody has conveniently ignored the NPT with regards to India.
    – user71659
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 2:15
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    Currently there are 454 power producing reactors world wide, and 54 are under construction. I feel in your answer a little flavor of the west-european, politically motivated general distaste of the nuclear energy. Other regions of the world don't have this preconception (I didn't vote on your post).
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 18:00
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    I see your point. What I meant was that the economic advantage of nuclear power is getting more and more uncertain as renewable energy is getting cheaper. Plans for new reactors are shelved around the world and many of those 54 under construction have been for decades. Note also the high political cost if the project ultimately has to be cancelled or is a failure (see f.e IAI Lavi). In authorian states like Russia and China that is much less of a problem. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 18:55
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    You had me up until that last paragraph. 'economical infeasibility due to political aspects' of any country that is NPT makes sense, but not if they're non-NPT (Israel is a special case though, and for your reasons, +1). However, politics aside, there is no more economical way to produce electrical energy than nuclear reactions. I'd like to see any data you have about this, with politics aside, about the economy of power production.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 21:36
  • @Mazura I'm not sure where you get "there is no more economical way to produce electrical energy than nuclear reactions" from. That may have been true until about 10 or 20 years ago, if ever (coal was comparable). Sure, the comparisons are difficult -- but solar has steadily gotten cheaper and is still in free fall, while nuclear is getting more expensive; e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_nuclear_power_plants. Today, nuclear plants without government subsidies are not viable any longer, if they ever were (e.g. in Germany, they were uninsurable, hence always government-insured). Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 20:33

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