OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Israel on Friday agreed to sell back to Norway a shipment of heavy water it bought 31 years ago rather than allow an inspection to prove the coolant was not used to make nuclear weapons.
″We have negotiated an agreement that satisfies both sides,″ said Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sigrid Romundset. The pact removes a longstanding irritant in relations between the two countries.
The accord, signed in Oslo by Israeli Ambassador Yehiel Yativ, obliges Norway to pay about $1.8 million to buy back the remaining 10.5 tons of heavy water.
Israel purchased 20 tons of the nuclear reactor coolant in 1959 and one ton in 1970 for use at a research reactor in its southern desert city of Dimona. Inspection rights were written into the sales contract.
″Experts concluded that there is about 10.5 tons left after evaporation and normal use,″ said Romundset.
The agreement reached Friday gives Israel one year to drain the heavy water from its facilities and return it to Norway.
Heavy water, or deuterium oxide, can be used to convert uranium into the plutonium used in atomic weapons.
A former Dimona technician, Mordechai Vanunu, in 1986 charged that Israel had produced up to 100 nuclear warheads. His allegation prompted Norway to demand an inspection of Dimona’s heavy water.
Israel refused to open Dimona. It had not allowed a Norwegian inspection since 1961, according to Norwegian press reports.
Oslo banned exports of heavy water in March 1989 after learning that at least three shipments ended up in countries on a Norwegian blacklist. Fifteen tons were traced to India, which Norway refuses to supply because the country has nuclear weapons but has not signed a non-proliferation treaty.
Norway’s sole heavy water supplier, the Norsk Hydro A/S industrial concern, stopped production a year ago.