Israel has 80 nuclear warheads, report says

Country reportedly stopped producing atomic weapons in 2004 but possesses enough fissile material for up to 190 warheads

The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from a satellite. (United States Government)
The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from a satellite. (United States Government)

Israel possesses a stockpile of 80 nuclear warheads, all of which were produced by 2004, when Israel froze all production, according to a report published over the weekend. The report, in the September/October issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, cited US Defense Intelligence Agency figures.

Israel began to produce nuclear warheads in 1967 and gradually built up its arsenal, producing between two and three warheads each year until it amassed 80 warheads in 2004.The report did not say why Israel had ceased production, although it noted that the Jewish state is estimated to have produced enough fissile material for 115 to 190 warheads.

Israel’s nuclear program has long been shrouded in secrecy, with the country maintaining a policy of ambiguity while refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Previous estimates have put the number of warheads in Israel’s possession at up to 400. According to foreign reports, Israel’s military has the capacity to deliver a nuclear payload via a variety of methods, including ballistic missiles, aircraft, and submarine-launched cruise missiles.

The 80-warhead figure — fewer than once thought, and lower than the nuclear arsenal of countries that are officially in possession of atomic weapons — was cited in June in a 2013 yearbook put out by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a leading think tank on global security issues.

Of those warheads, 50 are for medium-range ballistic missiles and 30 are for bombs carried by aircraft, the report said. In addition, “Israel may also have produced non-strategic nuclear weapons, including artillery shells and atomic demolition munitions,” the Guardian reported.

In 1986, based on information supplied by ex-Dimona nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, later convicted of treason, the Sunday Times of London estimated that Israel had produced more than 100 nuclear warheads.

According to the new report, despite conducting several tests North Korea has yet to develop a serviceable atomic warhead. The report put the number of nuclear warheads in the hands of world powers, in descending order, at 4,650 possessed by the US, 4,480 by Russia, 300 by France, 250 by China, 225 by the UK, 120 by Pakistan, 110 by India, and 80 by Israel.

The total number of serviceable atomic warheads in the world is 10,215, the report said, down from as high as 64,449 at the height of the Cold War in 1986.

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