Israel and nuclear testing

While Israel has never officially confirmed it, conventional wisdom says that they’re one of the nuclear-armed nations. The recent news about submarine-based nuclear missiles has brought this back to general attention.

My question: Where did, do, and/or could they test their nukes? It doesn’t seem like the country is big enough to do the testing in their backyard, the way, say, India can, with its ample real estate. And even if they did have space, wouldn’t they want to avoid it for fear of tipping their hand about something they’ve never verified?

Might they take a device down to the South Pacific, the way the French used to do? If so, seems like they’d have to fly it over grouchy neighbors, or put it on a boat and take it either past Gibraltar or out through the Suez, neither of which seems like a good idea politically.

Obviously, given the Israeli government’s reticence about releasing the facts of their nuclear program, this calls for some speculation, but it seems like their alternatives are limited enough that GQ is the proper place to iron out at least a practical-minded answer.

(And speaking of which, this is not the proper forum for scoring cheap political points: “They should test it on Damascus! Haw, haw, haw.” Please take those aspects of the discussion elsewhere. Thanks.)

You cannot test a nuke on today’s world without someone knowing about it. Seismic sensors are all over the world and they’d show the tremor of a nuke being detonated anywhere.

That said you can do underground explosions but certainly lots of countries would be wise to the fact it occurred.

I think these days detonating a nuke is more a political ploy than a practical necessity. The physics of the things are pretty well understood and as long as you have the nuclear material a country (any country) has an excellent shot at putting one together and assuming it will work. As long as you aren’t getting fancy like variable yield nukes that the US supposedly has I doubt you need to test it. Make several of them for good measure in case one or two were messed-up and you can have a high confidence in your nukes working.

Also, a great deal can be done via computer simulation. IIRC some fot he biggest computers in the world are used to simulate nuclear explosions. In this manner the US can continue development on the weapons without pissing the world off by setting one off every few years. Again though it should be noted that a straight forward, nothing fancy nuke that isn’t aiming for optimum yield but just a satisfactory bang is old technology. With the right materials you could probably build one in a well appointed college physics lab (didn’t that actually happen once?).

The infamous 1979 ‘Vela’ flash:

The Vela event is the only serious candidate for an Israeli nuclear test. From the FAS page on Israel’s nuclear weapons:

Worth noting that no country ever appears to have had a dud in those cases where they were trialing their early fission designs in full-scale tests.