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Coordinates: 31°00′09″N 35°08′54″E / 31.0026°N 35.1484°E / 31.0026; 35.1484 The 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.

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] 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 that. 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 deliberate ambiguity.

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

When the United States intelligence community discovered the purpose of Dimona in the early 1960s, it demanded that Israel agree to international inspections. Israel agreed, but on a condition that US, rather than International Atomic Energy Agency, inspectors were used, and that Israel would receive advance notice of all inspections.

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.

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, revealed to the media some evidence of Israel's nuclear program. Israeli agents abducted him from Italy and transported him to Israel. 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.

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]

See also


  • Avner 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, "Israel crosses the threshold". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 62 (3): 22–30. May/June 2006. doi:10.2968/062003008. Retrieved 2009-08-17.  
  4. ^
  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.  

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