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The New Arab Staff

Satellite images show Israel expanding Dimona facility previously used for nuclear weapons manufacturing

Israel has never confirmed nor denied the existence of its nuclear weapons programme [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 February, 2021

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Newly released images have revealed the existence of construction work at the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center.

New satellite images have revealed that Israel is expanding it Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev desert, where it has previously produced fissile material used for nuclear weapons

Images released on Thursday by the International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM), an independent group, showed that construction work is underway for a major expansion. 

The construction is apparently taking place at the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center, a few hundred meters southwest of the domed reactor building and is, “centered around a large-scale excavation area with the size of about 140 meters by 50 meters,” according to IPFM.

It is not clear when construction started, but Pavel Podvig, a researcher for IPFM, told The Guardian, “It appears that the construction started quite early in 2019, or late 2018, so it’s been under way for about two years, but that’s all we can say at this point.”

No comment has been made by the Israeli embassy in Washington and no comment is expected to be given by the Israeli government.

According to estimates by the Federation of American Scientists, Israel has around 90 nuclear warheads made from plutonium produced in the heavy water reactor at the Dimona nuclear facility

The Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center was constructed in 1958, in secret, with help from the French government, and without inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

The Dimona site and most of Israel's nuclear weapons activity remained shrouded in secrecy until 1986, when Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Dimona fled to the UK and revealed the weapons programme’s existence to Britian’s Sunday Times

Read more: What a Biden presidency means for US ties with Israel

Vanunu was subsequently kidnapped in Italy by Mossad agents and and sentenced to 18 years in prison for treason and espionage at a secret trial. He spent eleven of those years in solitary confinement.

At the time of Vanunu’s revelations, The Sunday Times reported that Israel had 20 hydrogen bombs and 200 fission bombs. 

Israel is not a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

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