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Israel to train new generation of nuclear engineers

March 1, 2010. Globes: Amiram Barkat

As Israel begins to work toward an Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) (TASE: ELEC.B22) plan to build a nuclear power station, a local university will set out to train a new generation of nuclear scientists. Sources inform ''Globes'' that an agreement will be signed this week to open a program in nuclear engineering at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, sponsored by IEC and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission's Nuclear Research Center Negev in Dimona.

The Nuclear Research Center will also provide lecturers for the four-year program, which will train dozens of nuclear engineers a year. The program will include an internship at either the Nuclear Research Center or at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center.

IEC's wish to build a nuclear power plant at Shivta in the Negev prompted the program. The company wants to build a combined nuclear and solar energy plant with a 1,000-1,200 megawatt capacity by 2020. It will one of the largest such plants in the world. The power plants would be built instead of IEC Project E for the construction of another coal-fired power plant at the Ashkelon Power Station. The new program is aimed at training engineers for the Shivta power plant.

The number of Israeli nuclear engineers has thinned since the nuclear program at Technion Israel Institute of Technology was closed several years ago. Sources said that nuclear engineering lost its prestige among students, who opt for more courses that will lead to a more lucrative career.

The main obstacle blocking construction of a nuclear power station is Israel has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which means that IEC cannot buy an off-the-shelf reactor from a Western manufacturer. However, there have been signs that Israel may be able to bypass this obstacle on the basis of the precedent-setting agreement between the US and India, another country that has not signed the treaty.

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