Israel Froze Production of Nuclear Warheads in 2004, Foreign Experts Say

In a report published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, experts say Israel has 80 nuclear warheads, but could double that number if it sees fit.

Israel ceased production of nuclear warheads nine years ago, according to a report published over the weekend by nuclear proliferations experts in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The report adds that at present, Israel is satisfied with the number of warheads in its possession, yet could increase the quantity - and even double it - if it sees fit.

The experts, Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, mostly concur with the 1999 assessment by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, which claimed that Israel has 80 nuclear warheads.

In a table appearing alonside the report, the experts point out that during 1999, Israel had 70 nuclear warheads; the number reached 80 in 2004 and has since remained unchanged. They also claim Israel has fissile material sufficient for anywhere between 115 to 190 warheads.

According to Kristensen and Norris, between 1967 and 2004 Israel produced two or three nuclear warheads a year. Between 1970 and 1990, once every four years, annual production stood at three warheads. In other years, two nuclear warheads were produced. The quantity of warheads gradually increased from 15 during the Yom Kippur War to 35 during the 1982 Lebanon War, 56 during the Iraq War and 78 in 2003.

Kristensen and Norris' table shows all of Israel's nuclear warheads in the "Deployed Warheads" column, as opposed to the "Stockpiled Warheads" column. They estimate India has 110 nuclear warheads, and Pakistan 120.

Israel has never confirmed its nuclear capabilities.

From time to time, U.S. documents assess Israel's nuclear arsenal. According to the State Department's Office of the Historian, at the end of the Yom Kippur War, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was asked during a briefing to Congressional leaders how many nuclear weapons Israel has. "A small number," he replied at the time.

According to Kristensen and Norris's table, at the time Israel has 15 nuclear warheads.