TV, Newspapers Show Israeli Nukes on Internet

Satellite photographs of Israel’s top-secret nuclear weapons reactor blossomed on Israeli television and in the country’s largest daily newspaper in August, focusing further public attention on the government’s clandestine production of weapons of mass destruction.

The high-resolution aerial photos were taken on July 4 by a commercial firm, IKONOS, a civilian satellite, sold to Space Imaging Corp., and posted on the internet by the Federation of American Scientists, which keeps track of nuclear weapons programs world-wide.

The photos showed buildings, cooling towers, and other facilities on the sprawling weapons site near Dimona in the Negev Desert about 25 miles from the Jordanian border. FAS analysts estimated on the basis of the pictures that the Dimona reactor could have produced plutonium for only 100 to 200 nuclear warheads-an estimate no greater than the total deduced from Mordechai Vanunu’s revelations 14 years ago. But others contend that Israel may have found methods of concealment from aerial observation.

Mark Brender, the satellite firm’s director of Washington operations, told the Los Angeles Times that Israel enjoys special legal protection from satellite observation not afforded to other countries.

“Even though American remote sensing satellites can take pictures at one-meter resolution, U.S. law requires them to sell it at two-meter resolution” if the pictures show sites in Israel, he said .