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JFK & Israel's Nuclear Program: Scientists Find No Evidence of Nuclear Weapons at Dimona Reactor

(October 31, 1962)

This is a Circular Airgram from the Department of State to certain posts concerning the visit by two U.S. scientists to the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona.

Reftel (sent all addressees except Algiers) authorized addressees inform governments to which accredited of results unpublicized visit in spring 1961 by two qualified scientists to Israel reactor site at Dimona. According to observations then reported, Dimona project appeared of type and magnitude described publicly by Israel leaders (e.g., research reactor with 24 megawatt capacity). While they also concluded reactor upon completion in two or three years would produce small quantities plutonium as do others of comparable size and character, our experts found no evidence Israelis preparing produce weapons. We noted, accordingly, that observations US scientists tended support public and private assurances re peaceful intent Dimona project. We further noted that highest levels this government opposed to proliferation nuclear weapons production capabilities and had so informed Israel.

Recently there has been further visit by American scientists to Dimona reactor. This enables us renew statements of June 1961 that latest observations again confirm Israeli statements that reactor intended for peaceful purposes only. There no evidence of preparation for nuclear weapons production. Work on reactor progressing normally.

Unless strong objection perceived, action addressees should orally convey information preceding paragraph promptly and in confidence to host governments at level deemed appropriate, although we would wish be assured information will become known at highest levels. Missions should report action taken and reactions noted.

For Damascus: Since no approach was made in Damascus last year, your statement should be altered appropriately.

Info addressees, with exception Tel Aviv, may use foregoing in discussions with local government as seems desirable and useful do so. We discussed with Canadian and UK Embassies October 23. Cairo instructed separately re approach UAR.

Department intends initiate no publicity with regard visits by scientists. If leaks occur, US spokesman will say two US scientists recently in Israel in connection with US Atoms-for-Peace Agreement had opportunity visit Dimona installation which they observed to be of nature and scope publicly disclosed by Israel Government. Suggest addressees take similar line in response responsible press inquiries.


Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII.