Israel expands nuclear facility previously used for weapons material | Israel

Israel is undertaking a major expansion of its Dimona nuclear power plant in the Negev Desert, where it has historically produced the fissile material for its nuclear arsenal.

Construction work can be seen in new satellite imagery released Thursday by the Independent Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), an independent group of experts. The area being worked on is a few hundred meters south and west of the dome reactor and reprocessing point at the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near the desert city of Dimona.

Pavel Podvig, a researcher with the Science and Global Security program at Princeton University, said, “It seems construction started pretty early in 2019 or late 2018, so it’s been going on for about two years, but this is all we can say at this point. “

The Israeli embassy in Washington had no comment on the new images. Israel has a policy of deliberate ambiguity regarding its nuclear arsenal that neither confirms nor denies its existence. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Israel has around 90 warheads made from plutonium, which is produced in the Dimona heavy water reactor.

The nuclear facility is said to have been used by Israel to manufacture replicas of Iran’s uranium centrifuges to test the Stuxnet computer worm that was used to sabotage the Iranian uranium enrichment program in Natanz. But that was more than 10 years ago, long before the current expansion began.

Israel built the Dimona reactor in the 1950s with extensive, covert assistance from the French government. By the end of the decade, Dimona was home to an estimated 2,500 French citizens who had their own French Lycées, but all under the guise of official denial.

According to The Samson Option, French workers from investigative journalist Seymour Hersh were not allowed to write directly to their homes, but their letters were sent through a fake mailbox in Latin America.

Dimona’s role in Israel’s nuclear weapons program was first announced by a former field technician, Mordechai Vanunu, who told the UK Sunday Times his story in 1986.

Before being released, he was lured from Britain to Italy by an Israeli agent and kidnapped by the Mossad. Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement for divulging Dimona’s secrets.

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