The Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometers south-east of the city of Dimona. Construction of the facility began in 1958 and its nuclear reactor went active sometime between 1962-1964. Israel claims that the reactor and research facility is for research purposes into atomic science. However, the purpose of the reactor is believed to be the production of materials that may be used in Israels nuclear weapons. Israel had produced its first nuclear weapons by 1967 and it has estimated to possess anywhere between 80-400 nuclear weapons. The airspace over the Dimona facility is closed to all aircraft, during the Six-Day War, an Israeli missile shot down an Israeli Mirage III fighter that inadvertently flew over Dimona. In 1973 a strayed Libyan airliner was approaching the airspace above Dimona facility, Israeli fighters shot it down after failure to make it follow them, killing 108 people. Construction commenced in 1958, with French assistance according to the Protocol of Sèvres agreements, the complex was constructed in secret, and outside the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection regime. To maintain secrecy, French customs officials were told that the largest of the reactor components, when the United States intelligence community discovered the purpose of the site in the early 1960s, the U. S. government demanded that Israel agree to international inspections. Israel agreed, but on the condition that U. S. rather than International Atomic Energy Agency, inspectors be used, Israel is one of three nations not to have signed the NPT, and alongside North Korea which left the NPT. The inspectors eventually informed the U. S. government that their inspections were useless, by 1969 the U. S. believed that Israel might have a nuclear weapon, and terminated inspections that year. The Dimona reactor was overflown by unidentified jet aircraft before the Six Day War in 1967 and these planes were thought at the time to be Egyptian Air Force MiG-21s, although a controversial 2007 book argues that they were actually Soviet MiG-25s. The full-scale production of warheads is believed to have commenced by 1966. The Mossad, Israels secret service, sent an agent named Cheryl Bentov who lured Vanunu to Italy. An Israeli court then tried him in secret on charges of treason and espionage, at the time of Vanunus kidnapping, The Times reported that Israel had material for approximately 20 hydrogen bombs and 200 fission bombs by 1986. Since his release, he has been rearrested and charged multiple times for violations of the terms of his release, dimonas reactor was defended by batteries of modified Patriot missiles in anticipation of strikes from Iraq in 2002 to 2003. Safety concerns about this 40-year-old reactor have been reported, in 2004, as a preventive measure, Israeli authorities distributed potassium iodide anti-radiation tablets to thousands of residents living nearby. In 2006 a group of residents was formed due to concerns regarding serious threats to health
The Negev Nuclear Research Center as viewed from a Corona satellite in the late 1960s
Vanunu's photograph of a Negev Nuclear Research Center glove box containing nuclear materials in a model bomb assembly, one of about 60 photographs he later gave to the British press.