Israel’s nuclear weapons

I have read quite a few books that pertain to Israel’s development of nuclear weapons at Dimona. It’s of historical interest for many reasons, ranging from the support states notionally opposed to nuclear proliferation actually providing assistance to foreign weapon programs, to whistleblower history, the geopolitics of the Middle East, and the details of capabilities required for weapon development.

Now, according to The Economist, the Dimona facility where Israel is thought to have made its fissionable material and assembled weapons may be reaching the end of its usable life:

The country’s atomic secrets have always been closely guarded, so little is known about the plant at Dimona. However, officials at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) admitted at a scientific conference last month that the reactor is showing its age. An ultrasound inspection of the aluminium core found 1,537 small defects and cracks, they said. The lifetime of such a reactor is usually around 40 years. At 53, Dimona is one of the world’s oldest operating nuclear plants.

The article also discusses the development of Israeli delivery systems:

The third leg of the triad is thought to have been added in 1999, when Israel received the first of six planned submarines. These were built and largely paid for by Germany. If, as reported, they can launch nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, this would give Israel a “second-strike” capability, allowing it to retaliate even if an enemy were to destroy its air bases and missile silos in a nuclear “first strike”. In January Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “Our submarine fleet will act as a deterrent to our enemies who want to destroy us.”

Among books on the development of nuclear weapons in many different states, I especially recommend those of Richard Rhodes: The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (1995), Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007), and The Twilight of the Bombs (2010).

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.