Israel Reportedly Upgrades Plutonium Reactor in Dimona

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

According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the number of nuclear weapons and models continues to rise globally, with China’s nuclear arsenal growing at a faster rate compared to other nations.

The report states that the nine nuclear-armed states – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, India, China, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel – continued to modernize their nuclear forces in 2023, with some even deploying nuclear weapons during the year.

Regarding Israel, the report notes that while the country does not publicly acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons, it appears to be modernizing its arsenal and potentially upgrading its plutonium production reactor in Dimona.

In total, the nine nuclear-armed states possess 12,121 nuclear warheads, with 9,585 of them being operational as of January 2024. Of these, approximately 3,904 warheads are deployed on missiles and aircraft – an increase of 60 from January 2023 – while the remaining warheads are held in reserve.

The report estimates that around 2,100 warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and kept in a state of high operational readiness, able to be launched promptly. Nearly all of these high-alert warheads belong to the United States and Russia, which together account for approximately 90% of the global nuclear stockpile. However, for the first time, there are indications that China has also deployed a limited number of warheads in a state of high readiness during peacetime.

According to SIPRI, China’s nuclear warhead inventory increased from 410 in January 2023 to 500 in January 2024, and it is expected to continue growing. Experts from the institute estimate that by the end of the decade, depending on how Beijing chooses to build its military forces, China could match or potentially surpass the United States or Russia in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles it possesses.

“China is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country,” said Hans Kristensen, a senior SIPRI researcher. “But in nearly all of the nuclear-armed states, there are either plans or a significant push to increase nuclear forces.”

Wilfred Wan, the director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, emphasized the heightened significance of nuclear weapons in international relations, stating, “‘We have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War. It is hard to believe that barely two years have passed since the leaders of the five largest nuclear-armed states jointly reaffirmed that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.'”

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