Negev Nuclear Research Center

Negev Nuclear Research Center

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The Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i nuclear
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 installation located in the Negev
Negev
The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The Arabs, including the native Bedouin population of the region, refer to the desert as al-Naqab. The origin of the word Neghebh is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'...

 desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

, about thirteen kilometers to the south-east of the city of Dimona
Dimona
Dimona is an Israeli city in the Negev desert, to the south of Beersheba and west of the Dead Sea above the Arava valley in the Southern District of Israel. Its population at the end of 2007 was 33,600.-History:...

. The purpose of Dimona is widely assumed to be the manufacturing of nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s, and the majority of defense experts have concluded that it does in fact do so. It is also reported to manufacture depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

 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
Nuclear ambiguity
Nuclear ambiguity can mean:*neither confirming nor denying possession of nuclear weapons, see Nuclear weapons and Israel*problem that launching an attack with a conventional weapon can be mistaken for a nuclear attack, see Prompt Global Strike...

. Information about the facility remains highly classified
Classified information
Classified information is sensitive information to which access is restricted by law or regulation to particular groups of persons. A formal security clearance is required to handle classified documents or access classified data. The clearance process requires a satisfactory background investigation...

.

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
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

, an Israeli missile shot down an Israeli Mirage III fighter that inadvertently flew over Dimona.

Its construction commenced in 1958, with French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 assistance according to the secret Protocol of Sèvres
Protocol of Sèvres
The Protocol of Sèvres was a secret agreement reached between the governments of Israel, France and the United Kingdom during discussions held between 22 and 24 October 1956 at Sèvres, France...

 agreements. The complex was constructed in secret, and outside the International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

 inspection regime. To maintain secrecy, French customs officials were told that the largest of the reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

 components, such as the reactor tank, were part of a desalination plant bound for Latin America.
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. However, the Israeli government refuses to confirm or deny this publicly, as part of a policy of "nuclear ambiguity"
Policy of deliberate ambiguity
A policy of deliberate ambiguity is the practice by a country of being intentionally ambiguous on certain aspects of its foreign policy or whether it possesses certain weapons of mass destruction...

.

The Dimona reactor became active some time between 1962 and 1964, and with the plutonium
Plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

 produced there the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 most probably had their first nuclear weapons ready before the Six-Day War.

When the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 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
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

, 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
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

 ( others are India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 ).

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), thereby deceiving 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, and terminated inspections that year.
The Dimona reactor was overflown by unidentified jet aircraft before the Six Day War in 1967. These planes were thought at the time to be Egyptian Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
The Egyptian Air Force, or EAF , is the aviation branch of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The EAF is headed by an Air Marshal . Currently, the commander of the Egyptian Air Force is Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez Mohamed...

 MiG-21
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed "balalaika", from the aircraft's planform-view resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument or ołówek by Polish pilots due to...

s, although a controversial 2007 book argues that they were actually Soviet MiG-25s
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 is a supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft that was among the fastest military aircraft to enter service. Designed by the Soviet Union's Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau the first prototype flew in 1964 with entry into service in 1970...

.

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu
Mordechai Vanunu
Mordechai Vanunu ; is a former Israeli nuclear technician who, citing his opposition to weapons of mass destruction, revealed details of Israel's nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986. He was subsequently lured to Italy by a Mossad agent, where he was drugged and kidnapped by...

, a former technician at Dimona, fled to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 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
Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

, Israel's secret service, sent a female agent who lured Vanunu to Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, 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
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 and espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

, and sentenced him to eighteen years imprisonment. At the time of Vanunu's arrest, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

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 modified 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
Potassium iodide
Potassium iodide is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula KI. This white salt is the most commercially significant iodide compound, with approximately 37,000 tons produced in 1985. It is less hygroscopic than sodium iodide, making it easier to work with...

 anti-radiation tablets to thousands of residents living nearby.
In 2006 a group of local residents was formed due to concerns regarding serious threats to 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
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 without medical supervision and without obtaining written consent or warning them about risks of side effects.

See also

  • Israel and weapons of mass destruction
    Israel and weapons of mass destruction
    Israel is widely believed to possess weapons of mass destruction, and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

  • Nuclear weapons and Israel
    Nuclear weapons and Israel
    Israel is widely believed to be the sixth country in the world to have developed nuclear weapons and to be one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , the others being India, Pakistan and North Korea...

  • Nuclear proliferation
    Nuclear proliferation
    Nuclear proliferation is a term now used to describe the spread of nuclear weapons, fissile material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information, to nations which are not recognized as "Nuclear Weapon States" by the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the...

  • Soreq Nuclear Research Center
    Soreq Nuclear Research Center
    The Soreq Nuclear Research Center is a research and development institute located near the localities of Palmachim and Yavne in Israel. It operates under the auspices of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission...

  • Dimona Radar Facility
    Dimona Radar Facility
    The Dimona Radar Facility is a facility under construction near Dimona, Israel consisting of two 400 meter tall radar towers, designed to track ballistic missiles through space and provide ground-based missiles with the targeting data needed to intercept them. Using AN/TPY-2 X-band radar, it can...


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