Australian Reports Cite New Evidence Pointing to 1979 Israeli Pacific Nuke Test

View of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, southern Israel. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

New evidence from declassified government papers in Australia lends credence to the suspicions that it was Israel that carried out a nuclear test in the South Pacific in 1979, reports in the Australian media said Tuesday. A report by Fox News quotes Australian sources as saying that the “Vela Incident,” so named for the double flash detected by the American Vela satellite in September 1979, was likely due to Israel’s testing of a nuclear weapon.

“A new publication sheds further light on the Vela Incident of 1979,” the report quotes Professor Nick Wilson, of Otago University at Wellington. “[The research] adds to the evidence base that this was an illegal nuclear weapons test, very likely to have been conducted by Israel with assistance from the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Israel has for years been suspected of having conducted the test, as none of the other known nuclear powers at the time have admitted conducting tests at that time and in that location. There had also been speculation that the double flash was due to an astronomical event, like the collision of meteorites, but the new research confirms that the incident was much more likely associated with a nuclear blast. The research cites documentation from tests on the thyroids of Australian sheep tested after the incident, which showed a higher level of iodine-131 – an element that indicated that a nuclear device had recently been exploded in the area.

The Fox report cited U.S. nuclear weapons expert Leonard Weiss of Stanford University, who wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the new data ““removes virtually all doubt” that the incident was nuclear in nature, and that there was “growing circumstantial evidence” that the test was carried out by Israel.“Israel was the only country that had the technical ability and policy motivation to carry out such a clandestine test,” he said.

Such a test would be a violation of international treaties on nuclear test bans. Israel has long denied the story.

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