Israel’s top-secret nuclear research facility near the southern city of Dimona is undergoing a major expansion, according to a report published on Thursday, February 18. A researcher with the International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM), which first noticed the construction in commercial satellite imagery of the facility, told the UK newspaper The Guardian that the construction appeared to have started in early 2019 or late 2018. The IPFM is an independent group of arms-control and non-proliferation experts from both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states.
Israel’s Dimona nuclear research facility is officially called the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center. The Guardian report indicates that the construction work is visible in satellite imagery published by an independent expert group [IPFM]. The section of the complex under construction is several hundred meters from the complex’s reactor and reprocessing plant; the purpose of the construction is not known, the report in The Guardian said.
The non-profit organization Federation of American Scientists (FAS) estimates that Israel currently has at least 90 nuclear warheads, something that makes it the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East. According to the FAS, the warheads were manufactured with plutonium produced by the Dimona facility’s heavy water reactor.