Dimona reactor – and thanks to Britain for helping out
More nuclear secrets exposed: Britain supplied plutonium to Israel in the 1960s while Harold Wilson was the British Prime Minister, the BBC reported on Thursday.
According to the report, the plutonium was sold to Israel despite a warning from British Intelligence that it could be use to produce nuclear weapons.
Under the Wilson administration (1964-1970) Britain sold tons of fortifying chemicals, which make a nuclear bomb 20 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Before that, during the Harold Macmillan government (1957-1963) the UK supplied Israel with uranium and heavy water, allowing Israel to begin production of nuclear weapons in Dimona's nuclear reactor. British Intelligence believed that Israel could produce "six bombs a year".
The BBC exposed the sale of heavy water back in August of last year, but the British government released a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it never made any deal with Israel but did sell heavy water to Norway.
The report is based on secret documents that the BBC obtained under the freedom of information law. The information also shows that Minister Kim Howells deceived the IAEA and the UK did transfer hundreds of nuke-related shipments to Israel.
The UK, which purchased heavy water from Norway for its own use, was left with surplus materials and was looking for a buyer, according to the report. Documents show that a company called Norton provided consultation and organized the deal with Israel for a two-percent commission. A British Intelligence investigator claims that the UK was aware that the heavy water was meant for producing plutonium.
Tony Benn, who was the science minister in 1966, commented following the revelations that: "Not only am I surprised, I'm shocked".
He said that neither he, nor his predecessor, approved the sale. He added that he always suspected that government personnel signed deals behind his back, but never thought they had sold plutonium to Israel, a move opposed to government policy.
According to the report, Britain's representative at the IAEA Mike Michaels was the one who convinced the British to sell a small amount of plutonium to Israel knowing that it would expedite Israel's ability to produce a nuclear weapon. Michaels' move came after he met in Israel with head of the nuclear project Ernest David Bergman, and even with Shimon Peres and David Ben-Gurion.
When asked about his opinion whether Prime Minister Wilson knew of the nuclear shipments to Israel, former minister Tony Benn replied that it is "inconceivable", but later did admit that "Harold was fond of Israel".