They searched for weak points in the network of international control — and for potential sympathizers. Once with a small American company, located in Apollo Pennsylvania and belonging to a brilliant young scientist. Zalman Shapiro is the son of an orthodox rabbi who lost part of his family in the Holocaust, an ardent Zionist and admirer of Israel. His company "Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. Numec " supplied the quickly growing number of commercial nuclear reactors. As well, the plant temporarily stored larger quantities of highly enriched uranium for government contracts.
The Mossad team manages to divert the precious material and to transport it to Israel. Numec director Shapiro does not report the loss. It is months before the United States Atomic Energy Commission discovers, in the course of routine checks, that more than kilos of uranium have disappeared.
Soon after that, he shut Numec down. A later investigative report by the American Congress stated cryptically: A company in Italy is listed as end user — the deal remains within the EWG and therefore seems relatively unsuspicious.
Nobody in Brussels suspects that the Italian dye factory has never had anything to do with uranium before and only signed the papers because it considers itself merely a middleman, tempted by a hefty commission. The supervisory body Euratom approves the purchase. But the hot goods never arrive in the destination port in Genoa. Top agent Eitan has thought of everything, and bought a worn-out ton freighter from a Hamburg ship owner.
The "Scheersberg A" takes on the load in Antwerp — and then vanishes in the Mediterranean. Later on, embarrassed Euratom functionaries reconstruct how the trip must have gone.
And from there, they were shipped to Dimona, to serve in the manufacture of several atom bombs. Rafi the Stinker is promote to Vice-Chief of the Mossad. In late the "Scheersberg" reappears in southern Turkey; there is no trace of her crew. The logbook contains no entries for the trip from Antwerp.
Uranium buyer Schulzen declares that he only carried out the deal in the role of intermediary, on behalf of a client he did not know. Had the Mossad acted alone in this? On the few occasions when Eitan spoke with journalists — after he retired from active espionage - he passionately denied any such help.
In fact it took the CIA years to uncover the Israeli nuclear weapons program. In late , when John F. At the start of his term of office, JFK was more favorably disposed towards Israel than almost any previous American President had been - "after all, New York Jews voted me into office, now I have to do something for them," he said to friends — but his fear of the proliferation of nuclear weapons was even stronger.
Kennedy gave Ben-Gurion an ultimatum to put Dimona under the supervision of specialists. Ben-Gurion balked, but realized that inspections could no longer be avoided. When the American scientists arrived for their pre-announced inspection, the Israeli secret service managed to lead them up the garden path.
In Israel constructed its first, primitive atom bomb, and not even the Americans managed to miss that. When asked, the Israelis fobbed the White House off with a deliberately wishy-washy standard phrase which the diplomat Shimon Peres uses frequently and which expresses official Israeli policy to this day: For several days around October 9, the world teeters on the edge of a nuclear war.
The 13 bombs are returned to their underground desert bunkers. Ever since the s Jerusalem has observed with great concern the rapid nuclear advances of Iraq in particular. With help from France, Saddam Hussein built a most suspicious nuclear reactor in Tuweitha south of Baghdad. In the early morning hours of June 7, , Begin launches eight F fighter planes, armed with 1,kilo bombs and accompanied by six F interceptors. They reduce the reactor, located kilometers from the Israeli border, to rubble and ashes.
Before the Iraqis have even realized what happened, the bomber planes have returned unscathed to their base near Eilat. This prudent politician, at that time a member of the Opposition, had been one of the few politicians to be made privy to the plan, and had argued vehemently against it as being too great a risk to the lives of the pilots as well as to future relations with the Arab nations. According to the political scientist Yoel Cohen, at the start of the Lebanese Campaign in Sharon urged the Cabinet in all seriousness to prepare a nuclear strike against Syria because the Syrians were allegedly about to attack the Golan Heights.
The most mysterious affair in the history of the mystery-shrouded Israeli nuclear weapons program begins. It is linked to a Moroccan-Jewish name: His parents — he a grocer, she a seamstress — live the life of a middle-class family in Marrakech. Mordecai is one of six children; like the others he grows up trilingual, and speaks Arab and French better than Hebrew. Nine-year-old Mordecai attends strictly orthodox schools until he graduates. He goes to study physics in Tel Aviv, but quits after one year.
Like many of the Oriental Jews, his political leanings are strongly right-wing. Mordecai Vanunu wants to make money quickly and so he applies to the "Nuclear Research Center" Dimona. In he passes an intensive course in physics, chemistry, mathematics and English — and a security check.
He is issued Service ID No. As the new employees now learn, this eight-story, largely underground complex is used to produce plutonium. All of them must sign a pledge of secrecy. Vanunu becomes inspector of the night shift, a job that takes him through every department of Machon 2.
For nine years he does his monotonous routine job reliably and inconspicuously. In the meantime he attends philosophy courses at the University of Beersheba. His specialty is Nietzsche. And in the process his political leanings change. Vanunu gives the student newspaper inflammatory interviews, attends courses given by the Israeli communists — hard to imagine that the omnipresent Internal Security Service could have missed all that. In December employees are laid off in Dimona, allegedly "for economic reasons".
Vanunu is among these — and even before he picks up his discharge papers he joins the Communist Party "Profession: But the loner finds no friends in the Party, and an affair with a midwife ends in a break-up. Vanunu decides to take a trip to the Far East.
He takes his camera along. Another item in his luggage: Explosive photos that the nuclear plant inspector took in the top-secret Machon 2 installation — allegedly without anyone noticing. He makes a living there as taxi driver, and in the Anglican Church of St. John he makes friends with the minister. He converts to Christianity. The pacifist Bible studies confirm Vanunu in his rejection of the Israeli nuclear program.
The newspaper flies Vanunu to the British capital. The story that is published on October 5, becomes a world sensation.
The politicians may continue to dodge a clear confirmation, but the clearly genuine photos prove it: Israel has approximately to atom bombs. Under orders from the Mossad, a pretty blonde lady made overtures to him in London and lured him onto a British Airways plane for a holiday in Rome. There are rumors that he had been drugged in Rome and abducted on a ship.
In a secret trial a court in Jerusalem sentenced Vanunu to 18 years in prison, most of them in isolation. The utter failure of the Dimona supervisory authorities is puzzling to this day. These days, the three characters from the nuclear crossroads - Shimon the Peace-Loving, Rafi the Stinker and Mordecai the Doubter — face vastly different futures. Rafi Eitan has grown bitter and has withdrawn into private life, to try his hand at business.
Sometimes he works as a real estate agent in West Jordan, sometimes as dealer in ornamental fish; his office is in Cuba and he has had several opportunities to meet Fidel Castro.
He did not make it to the position of Chief of the Mossad, and since his high-handed recruitment of the scientist Jonathan Pollard, who spied on the United States for Israel, Eitan has become a persona non grata in America.
On the websites of hardcore conspiracy theorists Eitan has recently been touted as the man behind the New York terrorist attack of September 11, — and is said to be currently planning another, no less monstrous deed.
Mordecai Vanunu is supposed to be released from Ashkelon Prison on April An American married couple who adopted him, and an Anglican minister who befriended him, are planning a huge party for him in the United States, which is where the prisoner hopes to emigrate to.
His fans have nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. As yet it is anything but certain whether he will actually be released. Under a law normally only used against suspected Palestinian terrorists, the Ministry of Defense wants to continue to keep Vanunu behind bars — or at least to release him only on his pledge that he will keep silent about his experiences in Dimona and his abduction. Israel is believed to possess the largest and most sophisticated arsenal outside of the five declared nuclear powers.
Israel has never admitted possessing nuclear weapons, but abundant information is available showing that the capability exists. A short essay on the history of Israel's nuclear weapons program April revelations about Israeli-South African nuclear collaboration The center of Israel's weapons program is the Negev Nuclear Research Center near the desert town of Dimona the center is usually identified simply as "Dimona".
A nuclear reactor and plutonium production facility was built by France at this facility in the late s and early 60s. All of the production and fabrication of special nuclear materials plutonium, lithium-6 deuteride, and enriched and unenriched uranium occurs at Dimona although the design and assembly of nuclear weapons occurs elsewhere. October news stories about workers health and safety at Dimona Click on images for close-ups This is an image of the Dimona facility taken by a US Corona spy satellite in Mission , 29 September , Frame: It is physically impossible to take a similar image within the atmosphere as Israel jealously protects the airspace above Dimona.
In the s an Israeli Airforce Mirage was shot down when it accidentally ventured too close to Dimona. A closeup of the same Corona frames.
Side-by-side comparison of a Corona image and the much lower resolution SPOT commercial imaging satellite. Mordechai Vanunu 17 K. The most specific and detailed information to be made public about its nuclear program came from a former mid-level nuclear technician named Mordechai Vanunu.
Vanunu had worked at the Machon 2 facility, where plutonium is produced and bomb components fabricated, for 9 years before his increasing involvement in left wing pro-Palestinian politics led to his dismissal in Due to lax internal security, prior to his departure he managed to take about 60 photographs covering nearly every part of Machon 2.
Mordechai Vanunu 35 K. After travelling around the world for several months in Bohemian style, he converted to Christianity in Australia. The religious group he associated with has an activist anti-nuclear bent and he soon decided to make public his knowledge of Israel's nuclear weapons capability.
He made contact with the London Sunday Times which flew him to London and began preparing an exclusive news story. Unfortunately for Vanunu, the Israeli government had found out about his activities and the Mossad arranged to kidnap him and bring him back to Israel for trial.
Mordechai Vanunu revealing details of his capture 39 K. For an even bigger image 57 K click here. He was successfully lured into a trap by a female Israeli agent named Cheryl Bentov operating under the name of "Cindy". His sudden disappearance before the publication of the Sunday Times story was mysterious at the time. The story was finally published several days later on 5 October A few motnhs later Vanunu's status as a prisoner of the Israeli government was confirmed when it was revealed that he would stand trial.
Despite being essentially incommunicado, Vanunu managed to reveal details of his capture in dramatic fashion when he wrote the information on the palm of his hand, and held it up for news photographers as he was being whisked away from the courthouse.
As described by Vanunu, the Dimona complex has nine buildings "Machons", Hebrew for "facility" including to the reactor building. The plant employs people.
Control room of the Machon 2 plutonium separation plant courtesy Mordechai Vanunu 31 K. Bomb components made of plutonium, lithium-6 deuteride, and beryllium are fabricated in level 5 of Machon 2.
They are transported by convoys of unmarked cars to the warhead assembly facility, operated by Rafael north of Haifa. The principal uncertainty in evaluating Israel's weapon production capability is the actual power level of the Dimona reactor.
It has long been believed that Israel has upgraded the reactor repeatedly to increase its plutonium production. Vanunu claimed that Israel possessed nuclear weapons implying some kg of plutonium and can produce 40 kg of plutonium a year. This production figure indicates an average operating power of MW thermal. Analysts generally discount figures this high, and the consensus is that it was initially operated at 40 MW and was upgraded to 70 MW sometime before A study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI produced a somewhat lower range of estimates, concluding that Israel has produced kg of plutonium through , enough for a stockpile of efficient weapons the extreme estimate range was to kg.
According to Vanunu fuel rods are irradiated for periods of about three months before discharge for plutonium extraction. At 70 MW the Dimona reactor would consume some 48 tonnes of fuel a year and produce about 18 kg of plutonium. Vanunu also claimed that Israel possessed fusion boosted weapons, and has developed hydrogen bomb technology. He provided information about both lithium-6 and tritium production. He stated that initially tritium was produced by a facility in Machon 2 called Unit 92 by separating it from the heavy water moderator where it is produced in small amounts as a by-product.
In production was expanded when a new facility called Unit 93 was opened to extract tritium from enriched lithium that had been irradiated in the reactor. The large scale production of tritium by Israel has been confirmed by South Africa, which received a shipments of tritium totalling 30 g during This clearly indicates tritium production on a scale sufficient for a weapon boosting program.
It is difficult to find any other rationale for such a large tritium production capability except some sort of thermonuclear weapon application. It is quite difficult to develop gas fusion boosting technology like that used in US weapons and weapons tests are probably essential. Although radiation implosion weapons could be developed without testing, they would tend to be large and heavy and would perhaps be incompatible with Israel's available delivery systems.
Tritium could be used to spike the fusion fuel and boost the yield, just as the Soviets did with the Kt "Joe-4". Hersh reports without any stated source that Israel has developed an extensive array of tactical nuclear weapons: With an arsenal that is quite possibly in excess of weapons it is likely that some of the nuclear materials would be applied tactical weapons.
Boosted bombs are doubtful, as are neutron bombs, due to problems with development in the absence of a significant testing program. Neutron bombs also require very large amounts of tritium g per weapon which would impact the production of plutonium quite seriously each gram of tritium displaces 80 grams of plutonium production. Artillery shells are also doubtful due to their wastefulness in plutonium. Tactical weapons are probably aircraft or missile delivered, or are pre-emplaced mines.
Burrows and Windrem claim without indicating a source that Israel has produced warheads, including those that have since been dismantled. They place the current arsenal at about weapons. Several reports have surfaced claiming that Israel has some uranium enrichment capability at Dimona. Vanunu asserted that gas centrifuges were operating in Machon 8, and that a laser enrichment plant was being operated in Machon 9 Israel holds a patent on laser isotopic enrichment.
According to Vanunu the production-scale plant has been operating since The scale of a centrifuge operation would necessarily be limited due to space constraints, and might be focused toward enriching depleted reactor fuel to more efficiently use Israel's uranium supply.
A laser enrichment system, if developed to operational status, could be quite compact however and might be producing weapon grade material in substantial quantities.
If highly enriched uranium is being produced in substantial quantities, then Israel's nuclear arsenal could be much larger than estimated solely from plutonium production.
Reports that Zalman Shapiro, the American owner of the nuclear fuel processing company NUMEC, supplied enriched uranium to Israel in the s seems to have been authoritatively refuted by Hersh. Israel produces uranium domestically as a by-product of phosphate mining near the Dead Sea but this amounts to only 10 tons a year, and is grossly insufficient for its needs.
Israel has addressed this shortfall by reprocessing the low burnup spent fuel to recover uranium which most nations do not do. It is also known to have purchased at least tons of natural uranium on the world market under an alias.
A major source though was some tons of uranium provided by South Africa in a quid pro quo for Israel's assistance on its weapons program. Combined with uranium recycling, and the possible use of enrichment to stretch the uranium supply, these quantities may be sufficient to account for Dimona's fuel supply to the present date Israel can undoubtedly deploy nuclear weapons using its capable air force.
The aircraft and crews dedicated to nuclear weapons delivery are located at the Tel Nof airbase. Originally the F-4 Phantom II acquired in was probably the designated carrier, today it would be the F The F has an unrefueled radius of action of km, extending out to western Iran, the shores of the Black Sea, Riyadh, or the Libyan border.
With refueling it can travel much farther of course, and an unrefueled one-way mission could take it as far as Moscow. Israel also possesses medium-range ballistic missiles: Under development is the Jericho-2B with a range of 2, km. These missiles were almost certainly developed specifically as nuclear delivery systems although chemical warheads cannot be ruled out.
About 50 Jericho-1s and 50 Jericho-2s are believed to have been deployed. Israel also has a or more US supplied Lance tactical missiles, with a range of km 72 miles.
Although these were supplied with conventional warheads, they could have been outfitted with nuclear or chemical ones. It is based on the French missile MD built by Dassault and was developed during the s. Two stage solid propellant Range: Jericho-2 development is indigenous, and started soon after the Jericho-1 was deployed.
Test launches began in and the first two had ranges of km and km The Jericho-2 shares the first two stages of the civilian Shavit Comet space launch vehicle, which has launched Israel's four satellites, the Offeq-1, 2, and 3 reconnaissance satellites, and the Amos communications satellite. Shavit space launch vehicle, Offeq-2 launch on 3 April 13 K. Located a few kilometers to the northwest is Tel Nof air base.
Images of the missile complex made by commercial satellites have been published in recent years, and September Jane's Intelligence Review published a 3-D analysis of high resolution pictures taken by the Indian IRS-C satellite.
The complex is compact - smaller than 6 km x 4 km. The missiles are mobile, being deployed on transporter-erector-launchers TELs , and are based in bunkers tunneled into the side of the limestone hills.
There are no signs of missile silos. TELs require firm, accurately leveled ground in order to launch, and maximum missile accuracy requires pre-surveyed launch points. Consequently there are a number of prepared launch pads paved culs-de-sac connected to these bunkers by paved roads. Images of an actual Jericho 2 TEL indicate that it is about 16 m long, 4 m wide, and 3 m high. It is accompanied by three support vehicles probably a power supply vehicle, a firing control vehicle, and a communications vehicle.
The Zachariah missile base was enlarged between and during the Jericho-2 deployment. A few kilometers north of Tel Nof is the Be'er Yaakov factory where the Jericho missiles and the Shavit are believed to have been manufactured.
From its deployment location in central Israel the Jericho-1 missile can reach such targets as Damascus, Aleppo, and Cairo. The short range of the Lance limits it mainly to battlefield use, although the Syrian capital of Damascus is in range from much of northern Israel. Also located at the site are a group of 21 bunkers thought to contain nuclear gravity bombs.
Five of the larger ones are about 15 m wide and 20 m long, and rise 6 m above ground. Israel has taken active steps to prevent nations that are officially at war with it from acquiring nuclear capabilities. The bombing of the Osiraq reactor in Iraq in is the most famous case, but an earlier sabotage of the reactor core in France prior to shipment is probably attributable to Mossad.
Israel's official policy is that it will not be the first nation to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. In contrast to the coy hinting of some undeclared weapon's states, Israel thus actively denies possessing nuclear weapons.
Its obvious capability in this regard has thus established de facto deterrence, while minimizing but not eliminating domestic and international controversy.
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