Monday, August 31, 2009

Secret nuclear and biological weapons programs in Israel

Israel: Ex-staffer at Dimona nuclear reactor says made to drink uranium
Report by Yossi Melman, Haaretz
Published: 18/08/09

Workers at the nuclear reactor facility in Dimona were made to volunteer to drink uranium in 1998 as part of an experiment, according to a lawsuit filed four months ago in the Be'er Sheva Labor Tribunal by a former worker at the facility.

The experiment was allegedly carried out without obtaining written consent from the workers or warning them of risks or side effects, as required by the Declaration of Helsinki on human experimentation.

The Israel Atomic Energy Commission said in a statement that the Dimona facility "has the safety and health of its workers as its highest priority.”

The commission statement added that the amount of uranium the Dimona staffers drank in the experiment (100 micrograms) was less than the amount Be'er Sheva residents drink from their taps in one month.

The worker who submitted the lawsuit, Julius Malick, recently retired after he said he was threatened by the former director of the facility, Yitzhak Gurevich, and the director of human resources, Gary Amal, that if he did not retire he would be fired.

Malick is suing the Dimona facility for a total of NIS 1. 8 million in compensation. According to the suit, Malick was "asked by his superiors to take part in an experiment on five workers. In the framework of the experiment, Mr. Malick and the other workers drank uranium. The experiment was conducted without medical supervision and no explanation was given as to the health risks to participants. Mr. Malick, out of fear for his livelihood and future in the department, agreed to the demand that he participate.”

Malick, who worked at the Dimona reactor for 15 years before retiring in 2008, received his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry at Bar-Ilan University. He has another degree, in industrial engineering and management, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva.

The lawsuit also notes that, while the workers did not receive the results of the experiment, an article about it appeared in the scientific journal Health Physics. According to the suit, the article, written by a number of researchers - headed by Drs. Zeev Karpas and Avi Lorber, the directors of the Dimona facility's analytical chemistry lab - included the subjects' names without their permission.

The subjects were given grape or grapefruit juice containing uranium to drink and were then asked for a urine sample, which was then analyzed to determine how uranium is excreted from the body through urine. The researchers said it was not supposed to be dangerous, Malick told his lawyer, Alexander Spinrad.”Lorber and Karpas said that even they took part in the experiment themselves, although to this day it's not clear to me whether they actually did. Afterward co-workers to whom I told this said I was stupid for drinking it and they wouldn't have agreed under any circumstances to do it,” Malick also told his lawyer.

Malick, a chemist, also said that a long time after the experiment, Lorber told him it was his and Karpas' private project.”That's ridiculous, of course, because the article listed other partners, whose names appear under their names and listed as workers of the Dimona facility,” Malick said.

Malick also said he once complained that no records were being kept and Karpas "joked with me and said I was making a tempest in a teapot.” The suit also states that his superiors never recorded his participation in the experiment in his medical records.

The suit describes a work accident in August of 1998, in which Malick sustained a burn on his hand as a result of contact with small amounts of uranium and other materials. Malick said he received poor treatment, and that he discovered by chance that the materials to which he had been exposed in the accident were not identified in the medical report. Malick told his lawyer he believed this type of maltreatment was systematic, and the suit alludes as much.

The lawsuit also states that Malick, in an internal memo to the safety department at the Dimona reactor, warned that workers who had been exposed in an accident to radioactive materials had not received suitable medical treatment. His first position at the Dimona reactor was in the analytical chemistry lab, where his job, among other things, was to evaluate possible damage to workers exposed to hazardous materials.

In the early years, Malick's superiors highly praised his work. However, Malick claims that he was later branded as a troublemaker when he tried to improve the level of safety and medical service at the plant. He was subsequently transferred to other positions where his skills could not be put to good use, the lawsuit states, and finally he resigned under threat of dismissal. After he resigned, Malick says he was forced to sign an agreement that discriminates against him relative to other pensioners of the facility.

Malick declined to be interviewed for this article out of concern over harassment by his former employers through the plant's security officers and the head of the security department in the Defense Ministry, which is responsible for security of information and the reactor. However, he confirmed to Haaretz that he had filed the lawsuit.


From the archive: The secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal revealed

October 5, 1986: Insight finds the warhead factory buried in the desert

THE secrets of a subterranean factory engaged in the manufacture of Israeli nuclear weapons have been uncovered by The Sunday Times Insight team.

Hidden beneath the Negev desert, the factory has been producing atomic warheads for the past 20 years. Now it has almost certainly begun manufacturing thermo-nuclear weapons, with yields big enough to destroy entire cities.

Information about Israel’s capacity to manufacture the bomb comes from the testimony of Mordechai Vanunu, a 31-year-old Israeli who worked as a nuclear technician for nearly 10 years in Machon 2 – a top-secret, underground bunker built to provide the vital components necessary for weapons production at Dimona, the Israeli nuclear research establishment.

Vanunu’s evidence has surprised nuclear experts who were approached by Insight to verify its accuracy because it shows that Israel does not just have the atom bomb – which has been long suspected – but that it has become a big nuclear power.

Vanunu’s testimony and pictures, which have been scrutinised by nuclear experts on both sides of the Atlantic, show that Israel has developed the sophisticated and highly classified techniques needed to build up a formidable arsenal.

They confirm that Israel now ranks as the world’s sixth most powerful nuclear power after America, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China – with an arsenal far greater than those other countries, such as India, Pakistan and South Africa, which have also been suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

It has possessed its secret weapons factory for more than two decades, hiding its plutonium extraction processes from spy satellites and independent inspections during the 1960s by burying it beneath an innocuous, little-used building.

The plant is equipped with French plutonium extracting technology, which transformed Dimona from a research establishment to a bomb production facility. Plutonium production rates amount to 40kg a year, enough to build 10 bombs. In the past six years Israel has added further equipment to make components for thermo-nuclear devices.

The 26 megawatt reactor, also built by the French, has been expanded and is probably now operating at 150 megawatts to allow it to extract more plutonium. An ingenious cooling system disguises the output.

The nuclear scientists consulted by The Sunday Times calculate that at least 100 and as many as 200 nuclear weapons of varying destructive power have been assembled – 10 times the previously estimated strength of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.

The scientists include Theodore Taylor, who was taught by Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, and worked on America’s first bomb designs. He later went on to head the Pentagon’s atomic weapons test programme.

Taylor studied the photographs taken by Vanunu inside Dimona and a transcript of his evidence near Washington last week. He said: “There should no longer be any doubt that Israel is, and for at least a decade has been, a fully-fledged nuclear weapons state. The Israeli nuclear weapons programme is considerably more advanced than indicated by any previous report or conjectures of which I am aware.”

Vanunu says that despite tight security he was able to smuggle a camera into Machon 2 and take more than 60 photographs.

The assessments of Taylor have been confirmed by other top nuclear scientists who were shown the pictures and detailed evidence.

Israel refused to comment on the evidence but confirmed that Vanunu worked for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission in Dimona. He was made redundant last November with 180 other Dimona workers during a cost-cutting drive.

Security men had grown concerned about Vanunu’s political contacts with West Bank Arab students during a part-time philosophy course that he was taking at Beersheba University.

Before publication Vanunu, now 63, was lured into flying to Italy for a holiday by a Mossad agent named Cheryl Bentov. He was captured by Israeli agents, smuggled to Israel and put on trial on charges of treason and espionage. He was released in 2004 but is not allowed to leave the country and is subject to numerous other restrictions including a ban on speaking to foreign journalists.


A film by the BBC

Which country in the Middle East has undeclared nuclear weapons...undeclared biological and chemical weapons... and no outside inspection?

Israel's weapons of mass destruction: how they use them and how they keep the fact of their existence from the world.

There are pictures and a lot of information at this site as well.
The Dimona Plutonium Nuclear Reactor

Mordechai Vanunu: The Sunday Times articles

...arsenal/ Atomic technician Mordechai Vanunu reveals secret weapons production...bomb come from the testimony of Mordechai Vanunu, a 31-year-old growing for the safety of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli who revealed the...

21 April 2004 Times Online

Mordechai Vanunu faces return to jail

MORDECHAI VANUNU, the nuclear whistleblower freed 11...nuclear plant or leaving Jerusalem. Mr Vanunu, 50, was arrested and detained last...Rayna Moss, of the Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, said: “*This is...

18 March 2005 The Times

Profile: Mordechai Vanunu

Mordechai Vanunu, 50, is reviled as a traitor, has been...first 11 of them in solitary confinement.Vanunu, the man who told the world about Israel...there's nowhere to run," he wrote.Vanunu, who has been nominated more than once...

21 April 2004 Times Online

Israel has much more to gain by freeing Mordechai Vanunu

...appeal to the Israeli court by Mordechai Vanunu (World News, last week). Israel...Israeli court set the price for what Vanunu had done* he has paid...8217*s treatment of Vanunu is unacceptable. From the way...

27 June 2004 The Sunday Times

Vanunu shouts his defiance after 18 years began, in raw defiance. Mordechai Vanunu strode to the gates of the...inside. “*But Vanunu, Mordechai, says we don’*t need a Jewish State. Vanunu, Mordechai, says ... it’...

22 April 2004 The Times

Snatched ... just like Mordechai

...who had interviewed Mordechai Vanunu. I drove there from...My relationship with Vanunu was of great concern...cost I had to make sure Mordechai would not be placed...probably to do with Mordechai Vanunu. “*...

30 May 2004 The Sunday Times

Bishop fears murder attempt on Vanunu

...Anglican bishop who has given Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistle...more hated man in Israel than Mordechai Vanunu,”* Meir Vanunu...along. But those in need, like Mordechai Vanunu, who have spent a long time...

27 April 2004 The Times

Bishop fears murder attempt on Vanunu

...Anglican bishop who has given Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistle...more hated man in Israel than Mordechai Vanunu,”* Meir Vanunu...along. But those in need, like Mordechai Vanunu, who have spent a long time...

27 April 2004 Times Online

Vanunu vows to fight Israel's bid to make a prison of his freedom

...the world supporters of Mordechai Vanunu, the whistleblower jailed...secret service against Vanunu —* which...despondent and so does Mordechai, whom I saw last week...Minnesota couple who adopted Vanunu when he was 42 after...

Peter Hounam

18 April 2004 The Sunday Times

Defiant Vanunu walks free after 18 years in jail

Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli whistleblower, walked...Justice Minister. claimed today that Vanunu was "hell-bent" on doing as much...Amnesty International UK, said: "MordechaiVanunu’*s release is long...

21 April 2004 Times Online

Vanunu: the truth about my kidnap

...Israeli agents in 1986, Mordechai Vanunu has spoken out publicly...solitary confinement. Vanunu, in the only interview...The bishop has allowed Vanunu to stay at St George...providing sanctuary to Mordechai.”*

Tom Walker

30 May 2004 The Sunday Times

Celebrities press Israel to let Vanunu leave

...prevent the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu from leaving the country. end to the restrictions on Vanunu have also been delivered to the...Cuthbertson, said: “*Mordechai Vanunu has repaid his debt to Israeli...

Peter Hounam

11 July 2004 The Sunday Times

Vanunu is defiant after 'revenge' arrest

...nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu on suspicion of disclosing...finally managed to see Vanunu he found him upset after...attempted to persuade Mordechai to obey a ban on speaking...before a magistrate, Vanunu was released on bail...

Peter Hounam

14 November 2004 The Sunday Times

Vanunu faces interrogation

...nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu is facing interrogation...rejected a petition by Vanunu’*s...the criminal inquiry. Vanunu’*s...8220*Mordechai told all he knew about...

Peter Hounam

01 August 2004 The Sunday Times

Spy boss reveals Mossad considered killing Vanunu, once considered killing Mordechai Vanunu, the technician who revealed details...disclosure came two months before Vanunu is due to be released after more...masterminded the 1986 operation to kidnap Vanunu and return him to Israel, referred...

Peter Hounam

08 February 2004 The Sunday Times

Vanunu reporter is freed by Israelis

...journalist who first reported Mordechai Vanunu’*s revelations...ceaseless security obsession with Vanunu. ”*Mr Hounam...operating on the supposition that Mordechai Vanunu has new secrets to reveal about...

28 May 2004 Times Online

Vanunu fears for his life after street threats

THREATS of violence against Mordechai Vanunu, the nuclear whistleblower, have...It could have been nasty but Mordechai was accompanied on both lifted.”* Vanunu left jail in April after serving...

Peter Hounam

06 June 2004 The Sunday Times

Vanunu defiant as Israel brings new charges

THE nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu reacted defiantly yesterday to criminal...Jerusalem where he has sought sanctuary, Vanunu said he had always believed that...rights issue,”* Vanunu said. “*I want...

Peter Hounam

20 March 2005 The Sunday Times

There is more on Vanunu Here