Controversy & Resignation

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Israels "Secret" Negev Nuclear Research Center

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Coordinates: 31°00′05″N 35°08′40″E / 31.0013°N 35.1445°E / 31.0013; 35.1445

The Negev Nuclear Research Center as viewed from satelliteThe Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometers to the south-east of the city of Dimona. The purpose of Dimona is widely assumed to be the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and the majority of defense experts have concluded that it does in fact do so. It is also reported to manufacture depleted uranium for armor-piercing shells. Israel acknowledges the existence of the site, but refuses to either confirm or deny its suspected purpose in a policy known as nuclear ambiguity. Information about the facility remains highly classified.

The airspace over it is closed to all aircraft, and the area around it is heavily guarded and fenced off. During the Six-Day War, an Israeli missile shot down an Israeli Mirage III fighter that inadvertently flew over Dimona. Its construction commenced in 1958, with French assistance according to the secret Protocol of Sèvres agreements. The complex was constructed in secret, and outside the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection regime. To maintain secrecy, French customs officials were told that the largest of the reactor components, such as the reactor tank, were part of a desalination plant bound for Latin America. [1] An estimate based on the known power of the reactor concluded that enough plutonium for 100 to 200 nuclear bombs could have been produced by the year 2000. [2] However, the Israeli government refuses to confirm or deny this publicly, as part of a policy of "nuclear ambiguity".

The Dimona reactor became active some time between 1962 and 1964, and with the plutonium produced there the Israel Defense Forces most probably had their first nuclear weapons ready before the Six-Day War.

When the United States intelligence community discovered the purpose of the site in the early 1960s, the U.S. government demanded that Israel agree to international inspections. Israel agreed, but on the condition that U.S., rather than International Atomic Energy Agency, inspectors be used, and that Israel would receive advance notice of all inspections. Israel is one of only three nations thought to possess nuclear weapons never to have signed the NPT ( others are India and Pakistan ).

Some claim that because Israel knew the schedule of the inspectors' visits, it was able to hide the alleged purpose of the site (manufacturing of nuclear weapons) from the inspectors, by installing temporary false walls and other devices before each inspection. The inspectors eventually informed the U.S. government that their inspections were useless, due to Israeli restrictions on what areas of the facility they could inspect. By 1969 the U.S. believed that Israel might have a nuclear weapon,[3][4] and terminated inspections that year.

See wiki for Vanunu's photograph of a Negev Nuclear Research Center glove box containing nuclear materials in a model bomb assembly, one of about 60 photographs he later gave to the British press.The Dimona reactor was overflown by unidentified jet aircraft before the Six Day War in 1967. These planes were later determined to be Soviet MiG-25s.[5]

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Dimona, fled to the United Kingdom and revealed to the media some evidence of Israel's nuclear program and explained the purposes of each building, also revealing a top-secret underground facility directly below the installation. The Mossad, Israel's secret service, sent a female agent who lured Vanunu to Italy, where he was abducted and drugged by Mossad agents and smuggled to Israel aboard a freighter. An Israeli court then tried him in secret on charges of treason and espionage, and sentenced him to eighteen years imprisonment. At the time of Vanunu's arrest, The Times reported that Israel had material for approximately 20 hydrogen bombs and 200 fission bombs. In the spring of 2004, Vanunu was released from prison, and placed under several strict restrictions, such as the denial of a passport, freedom of movement limitations and restrictions on communications with the press. Since his release, he has been rearrested and charged multiple times for violations of the terms of his release.

Dimona's reactor was defended by batteries of Patriot missiles in anticipation of strikes from Iraq in 2002 to 2003[citation needed].

Recently safety concerns about this 40-year-old reactor have been reported. In 2004, as a preventive measure, Israeli authorities distributed potassium iodide anti-radiation tablets to thousands of residents living nearby. [6]

In 2006 a group of local residents was formed due to concerns regarding health and safety from living near the reactor.

According to a lawsuit filed in Be'er Sheva Labor Tribunal, workers at the center were subjected to human experimentation in 1998. According to Julius Malick, the worker who submitted the lawsuit, they were given drinks with uranium without medical supervision and without obtaining written consent or warning them about risks of side effects.[7]

[edit] See alsoIsrael and weapons of mass destruction
Nuclear proliferation
Dimona Radar Facility
2008 Dimona suicide bombing
[edit] ReferencesAvner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, University Press of Columbia (1999), ISBN 0-231-10483-9
Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Random House (1991), hardcover, 354 pages, ISBN 0-394-57006-5
1.^ Nuclear Weapons - Israel
2.^ Dimona-Reactor Detail
3.^ Avner Cohen and William Burr, Cohen, Avner; Burr, William (May/June 2006). "Israel crosses the threshold". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 62 (3): 22–30. doi:10.2968/062003008. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
5.^ Foxbats Over Dimona: The Soviets' Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War
6.^ Israel distributes radiation pills to residents near nuclear reactor. 08/08/2004. ABC News Online
7.^ "Ex-staffer at Dimona nuclear reactor says made to drink uranium". 2009-01-01.
[edit] External linksUS Army essay about Israel's nuclear weapons
Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC)
Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East
FAS's page about the Israeli nuclear program
History of Israeli Nuclear Program
Israel Special Weapons Guide
Independent Thinktank Analysis of Israeli Nuclear Doctrine
Animated video of the Dimona facility
Armageddon - about Dimona written by Israelis
Annotated bibliography for the Dimona nuclear complex from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
Gaza rockets put Israel’s nuclear plant in battle zone
Retrieved from
Categories: France–Israel relations Israeli nuclear development Military nuclear reactors Nuclear research centers Research institutes in Israel

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