Israelis Gain More Access at U.S. Labs

Relations between American and Israeli nuclear scientists, always cordial, just got a little cozier.

In a February visit to Israel, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson signed a document with Director Gideon Frank of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and raised a toast with his Israeli counterpart, Eli Suissa.

The agreement removes Israel from a list of “sensitive” countries whose scientists are subject to extensive background checks before being admitted to U.S. national laboratories.

“It is a signal that Israel is a friendly country,” Richardson told a news conference. “It is not treated in a similar fashion as others on our list of sensitive countries.” Officials accompanying Richardson explained that the agreement covers “non-sensitive” areas such as solar technology and detection of nuclear weapons tests.

Israel had previously shared a place on the restricted list with such countries as Iraq and Russia because of U.S. concerns about its unacknowledged nuclear weapons program. Israeli officials stressed in their meetings with Richardson that there would be no change in Israel’s refusal to sign the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which would subject their nuclear programs to international inspection.