What is Israel building on its Dimona nuclear site?


What is Israel building on its Dimona nuclear site?

by Richard Silverstein.

An international NGO campaigning to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons recently released satellite images showing that Israel, for the first time in decades, was engaged in new construction at its Dimona nuclear site. The reactor there, which first became operational in the mid-1960s, manufactures plutonium as fuel for Israel’s nuclear stockpile of 80 nuclear warheads.

These revelations of new excavation work have piqued the curiosity of nuclear experts and intelligence agencies around the world. Since the Dimona reactor is long past its expected lifespan, some have speculated that Israel could build a new plutonium reactor.

This seems unlikely, as this element is durable and Israel has already produced enough of it for current or future needs. Some have speculated that the existing reactor was either largely shut down or in the process of being decommissioned.

If Israel doesn’t need a new reactor to replace the old one, what else could it build in it? In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Association for Arms Control, highlighted another critical element of nuclear warheads: tritium. It is an isotope of hydrogen used to increase the efficiency of nuclear warheads. It also makes the explosive reaction more efficient, so that it requires less fuel (in the case of Israel, plutonium).

Tritium has enabled advances in weapon design, including smaller devices with amplified explosive power. It is also used in neutron bombs, which are designed to kill humans while having a reduced explosion area. Kimball told the PA that Israel “may want to produce more tritium, a relatively faster decomposing radioactive byproduct used to increase the explosive performance of some nuclear warheads.”

Tritium, like plutonium and other substances used to make nuclear weapons, is made in a nuclear reactor. It can be produced by irradiating lithium metal. The isotope is less stable than plutonium, which means it must be replenished more frequently for use in a nuclear arsenal.

If, as leading nuclear expert Avner Cohen speculated, the old Dimona reactor were to be decommissioned, Israel would need a new source for tritium production. Perhaps a reactor is built specifically for this purpose.

Construction appears to have started, according to an analysis of satellite photos, in late 2018 or early 2019. This means work has probably been going on for about two years. Current footage shows mostly excavation work, but no buildings are under construction yet.

Why is the process moving so slowly? This could indicate indecision among policymakers about when and whether to shut down the old reactor, or budget constraints preventing a faster pace of construction.

The real nuclear danger

But why have the images only become public now, after two years of construction? Given the looming conflict between Israel and US President Joe Biden over resuming Iran nuclear talks, the US administration may want to remind the world where the real nuclear danger lies – and it is not. in Iran.

If the construction is tied to the production of tritium, that would suggest that Israel is not building a new class of nuclear weapons, like the hypersonic weapons that Russian President Vladimir Putin has bragged about – at least not to Dimona. On the contrary, Israel is probably refining the power of its existing arsenal.

The ultimate irony of Project Dimona is that no one is questioning Israel’s right to build nuclear weapons or improve the lethality of its arsenal. Want to dig a hole the size of a football field to build god knows what? Go ahead, no problem. Yet if a single uranium particle falls to the ground in a place where it shouldn’t be in Iran, the entire international community is crying out loud, claiming that Tehran is weeks away from nuclear rupture and impending disaster.

Why this double standard? Why does the world think that Israel deserves such an immense arsenal and that it will maintain it responsibly, when Iran is not even entitled to a single weapon – and that if it does? create one, would that blow up the world? What has Israel ever done to deserve such credibility, and what has Iran ever done more heinous to deserve this level of stigma?
Keep enemies under control

In an exchange on Facebook with Avner Cohen, the latter called Benjamin Netanyahu the most “nuclear-keen” Israeli prime minister since David Ben-Gurion, who founded the country’s nuclear program. Netanyahu took much more interest in the nuclear project and made numerous speeches, both in Dimona and at Ben-Gurion’s grave near Sde Boker, threatening Iran with nuclear destruction.

This does not necessarily mean that Netanyahu is more likely to use such weapons than previous prime ministers. This means that he sees a critical need for Israel to have a credible nuclear deterrent to keep its enemies in check. It is a key part of Israel’s geopolitical strategy, a means of projecting power and securing regional dominance of the nation.

It repels threats from hostile forces in Iran, Syria and Iraq. In the past, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered an attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered an attack on a Syrian reactor under construction in his Eastern Desert.

Netanyahu’s obsession with Iran’s nuclear program may stem from his reluctance to be the first Israeli leader to allow an Arab enemy to join the nuclear club.

Over the past decade, the United States and Israel have played a good cop and bad cop role in the face of the alleged Iranian nuclear threat. US presidents have used a combination of secret sabotage and public diplomacy to advance Iran’s policy of restraint, while Israel has at times advocated an outright military attack. The two collaborated on the secret Stuxnet virus that destroyed uranium centrifuges.

See “Did Israel and Washington Just Launch a Cyber War Against Iranian Nuclear Facilities?” ”

But the United States has never been willing to join an attack on Iran, despite lobbying from Netanyahu. Will the Israeli leader show restraint, or will he test Biden’s resolve and Iran’s commitment to negotiations by continuing to assassinate nuclear scientists and undermine another way a politico-diplomatic approach to resolve the crisis?

See “Assassination of Iranian Scientist: Moscow Condemns ‘Terrorist Attack’, EU Refrains to Cover Israel”

Biden learned from former President Barack Obama’s past experiences that Netanyahu should not be trusted. It is an unenviable position to have to beware of both your enemy (Iran) and your ally.

Source lecridespeuples


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  1. Israel’s Nuclear attack on Lebanon has been ignored by the world’s media.
    It surely was a war crime & yet the cover up has been successful just like 9/11. It seems that Israel is free to do what it likes when it likes.

  2. Netanyahu warned us back in 1990 what Israel would be up to in the coming years, “If we get caught, they will just replace us with persons of the same cloth. So, it does not matter what you do, America is a golden calf and we will suck it dry, chop it up, and sell it off piece by piece until there is nothing left but the world’s biggest welfare state that we will create and control. Why? Because it is the will of God, and America is big enough to take the hit so we can do it again and again and again. This is what we do to countries that we hate. We destroy them very slowly and make them suffer for refusing to be our slaves.”

  3. I find it telling that you had to qualify which was which in this quote; “It is an unenviable position to have to beware of both your enemy (Iran) and your ally.”

  4. Without the replenishment of tritium inside Israel and the USA’s nuclear arsenals, which needs to occur every few years, the weapons become will become duds.
    Interesting Russia, Pakistan, does not use tritium in it’s much “dirtier” nukes.
    So cut off supply of Tritium to Israel, and all it’s nukes are worth nothing.

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