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US think tank says Israel has around 115 nuclear weapons

Nov. 21, 2015 1:38 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 21, 2015 9:56 P.M.)
Aerial image of Israel's Dimona nuclear complex taken in 1968. (Credit: Globalsecurity.org)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Washington-based think tank published a study Friday reporting Israel’s possession of around 115 nuclear weapons, despite the country's ongoing policy of ambiguity regarding its nuclear capacities.

According to the report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), Israel has produced 660 Kg of plutonium in a nuclear reactor located in Dimona, near the city of Beersheba.

Israel began plutonium production in 1963 and had used it to make around 115 nuclear weapons by the end of 2014, the first of which was developed shortly before the 1967 Six Day War, the report said.

The major nuclear weapons production complex in Dimona contains several “secret nuclear facilities for the production of plutonium,” ISIS reported.

The complex is also site to a heavy water reactor, a fuel fabrication plant, and a plutonium separation plant which the think tank reported were all provided by France in the 1950s and early 1960s.

ISIS said that the Dimona complex may also contain facilities used for tritium extraction and purification, lithium production, and uranium enrichment.

While the ISIS report confirmed that Israel holds a variety of methods for delivering nuclear weapons, it said the exact numbers of Israeli nuclear weapons is a "closely guarded secret" of the Israeli government.

The think tank -- which professes it aims for greater transparency of nuclear activities worldwide -- referred in the report to Israel’s “ambiguous posture about its nuclear weapons.”

The report cited declassified US documents asserting the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons, as well as the 1986 disclosure of information on Israel’s nuclear program revealed by Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician turned peace activist.

Vanunu referred to the Dimona complex at the time as being site to the development of “more advanced nuclear weapons, in particular miniaturized warheads, boosted fission weapons, and thermonuclear weapons.”

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, other think tanks have predicted Israel holds between 80 and 200 nuclear weapons.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

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