Workers at the Negev Nuclear Research Center were exposed to extremely high radiation levels – some as high as the annual limit – an expert on radiation safety told the court Wednesday.
Dr. Thelma Byrne's statement was made during a court hearing in a case meant to determine whether former employees of the institute should be recognized as the victims of work-related accidents after they were diagnosed with cancer.
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The damages suit was submitted by 44 employees of the Dimona-based reactor and the Soreq Nuclear Research Center in the mid 1990s. Some members of the plaintiff have since died.
"We would get contaminated each time," Dr. Byrne, who used to head the radiation safety department at the Soreq center, said in her testimony. "I worked with materials whose nature was unknown. They didn't tell us what we were exposed to.
The nuclear reactor in Dimona (Photo: Reuters)
"Radiation safety wasn't what it is today, it was a marginal issue," she added. Byrne based her testimony on employees' depositions.
Byrne claimed that some of the cancer victims could have been spared if they would have undergone preventative radiation exposure tests, but such tests were not given.
'Many accidents at plant'
Effie Blecker, whose father worked for the Dimona center and died from cancer urged the state to recognize the former employees as work accident victims. He said that his father told him on his deathbed that "there were many accidents at the plant that were not talked about."
He said that at times his father wouldn't come home from work for days; only later did it become evident that his father and his colleagues had to stay at the plant to be decontaminated.
"Every time I asked him about what went on at the plant, he would say 'there are things I can't tell you,'" Blecker said. "I'm sure that there are state secrets that he didn't want to expose, and that's fine. But the injustice done to these people must be corrected."
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