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24 Sep, 2009 07:56

Israelis made to drink Uranium enriched juice?

Juice laced with uranium is just one of many clinical trials allegedly conducted at Israel’s Negev nuclear plant, claims investigative journalist Yossi Melman.

Melman has accused the plant's management of forcing its workers to take part in life-threatening experiments for the sake of nuclear developments.

They also claim the government and the military are involved in a cover-up of the tests.

It’s taken a decade for them to speak out, but workers at Israel’s nuclear reactor facility claim their managers gave them uranium to drink – as part of an experiment. With no medical supervision or explanation of the risks, the workers now want compensation.

”They told me that the managers of the laboratory approached a few workers within the laboratory and asked them if they are ready to volunteer for a research that they are doing and when the said ‘yes’ they were asked to drink juices – grapefruit and orange juice with uranium,” Investigative Journalist Yossi Melman says.

Professor Tzvi Bentwich is a doctor and human rights campaigner who says Israel still lacks the laws to protect its people against clinical trials like this. He believes the claims are plausible.

“My guess it that the idea was to see what is the amount of uranium that is present in drinking water that is ingestible that would show by the regular detection methods bearing in mind that in this set up of the nuclear plant maybe workers or people that are there would be exposed food, water that may be contaminated and therefore the idea would be how much would they be exposed till they get to be detected,” says Professor Tzvi Bentwich of Ben-Gurion University.

The government’s response is confusing – insisting it never happened, while suggesting an investigation.

Israeli authorities deny the claims. In a statement emailed to RT’s offices they explicitly say there have not been human experiments at the Negev Nuclear Center. What’s more they write that the CEO of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission has decided to put together an expert team. They won’t give any statements until the investigation is complete.

These aren’t the first such allegations in Israel. Dorit Tahan was a teenage army officer, drafted with 700 other soldiers to find an anthrax vaccine. They were told the tests were safe, but ten years on, many still suffer skin and breathing problems, headaches and stomach pains.

”We were soldiers, young soldiers – highly motivated – we believed with all our heart in the army, in the state, so we had no reason not to participate in that,” Tahan says.

Similar claims have emerged from naval troops, saying they were ordered to dive into water polluted by toxic waste. Many developed cancer. It took years for the incidents to come to light.

From the military: a flat denial.

So at the nuclear reactor, it’s no surprise to people like Gideon Spiro that there’s great pressure on workers in sensitive jobs to keep quiet.

He led the campaign to free Mordecai Vanunu, the whistleblower jailed for 18 years for revealing Israel’s atomic weapons work.

“One of our demands is to open Dimona (location of Negev nuclear plant) for international inspection to know what is exactly happening not only with the manufacturing of weapons but how they are dealing with the nuclear waste for instance,” Human rights activist, Gideon Spiro says.

Israelis have always seen the reactor as their protector from enemy attack. But allegations of medical tests on people – and an ever-growing official wall of silence – could force some to consider whether it’s becoming a public enemy.