Dimona - Machon 2
Reached by stairs from the ground floor, this windowless section contains administrative offices for Machon 2. There is a canteen, a suite of bathrooms and a large air filtration plant. Unit 40, which handles the water cooling, vacuum production and acid and alkali preparation, is approached from a corridor which was bricked up whenever inspectors from the United States visited the site. In this "hidden" section is a goods lift leading down to level three and a passenger lift leading to level five.
Spaced around the building are four entrance doors one large enough to permit deliveries by truck of buckets of irradiated fuel rods. After unloading, these are lowered by hoist to Level Three where the plutonium extraction process begins. There are also storerooms and workshops in which production apparatus is made. A staircase leads to the first floor from where workers traveled by lift to the secret levels below ground.
The complex task of supplying services to Machon two are handled at this level. The area is a mass of pipes and valves, some entering the building from Machon six where emergency electricity generators, a production plant for steam, nitrogen, and other chemicals are installed.
Offices and a spare parts store occupy one end but this level is dominated by the main control room, 100 feet long. Here, the mostly automated plutonium separation processes are monitored. Control panels, covered with lights, switches, meters and flow diagrams, were, installed by the French. The "Golda Balcony", named after Golda Meir, gives control room staff a panoramic view of the production hall which rises from Level Four to this level.
Buckets containing fuel rods are lowered from above to Unit 11 where they are chemically stripped of their aluminum casing and then dissolved in nitric acid. The fluid, containing both uranium and plutonium, is highly corrosive and radioactive. It is then transferred by vacuum through pipes to the main production hall. There are also laboratories, on this level, where the scientists check the concentration and purity of chemicals used in the production processes.
A huge production hall, rising through three levels, contains the main chemical plant for the separation of plutonium from uranium. Within the hall are separate rooms containing automated processing equipment. A small control room monitors the conversion of plutonium into pure metal and the production of tritium. Located on this level are also sections of MM2-the highly secret metallurgy department-where bomb parts are machined.
The metallurgy section (MM2) occupies most of this level. Plutonium, lithium compounds, and beryllium are machined into components for nuclear weapons. As a security and safety measure, much of the equipment is installed in separate rooms. There are many glove boxes containing lathes, milling machines and other motorized equipment. One area houses tanks of radioactive waste. A lithium 6 production plant (Unit 95) has columns of pipes rising through four levels inside an old lift shaft.
Large empty storage tanks in this area are designed to accommodate waste chemicals. The tanks are intended for use only if an accident or other emergency necessitates a rapid drain-down of the plutonium refining plant.
Unit breakdown for Machon 2
(No Units 1-9)
Unit 10: Receives trucks carrying "baskets" containing fuel rods. Baskets are transferred by crane from ground level to unit 11, 10 meters below ground level and are removed using a manipulator. The fuel rods are made of uranium with a casing of aluminum but after being in the reactor for three months they contain a small proportion of plutonium. About 100 of them are large and 40 are small. The purpose of Machon 2 is to remove the radioactivity and then extract the plutonium, returning the residual uranium for reprocessing as new fuel rods.
Unit 11: Uranium fuel rods are placed in a 600 liter tank of NaNOH2. The aluminum is dissolved by the "base" (OH). A lot of hydrogen is given off during this process. The fluid in the tank leaves the uranium clean. Fluid is highly radioactive and is sent to unit 25 for treatment. The 650 kgms of uranium fuel rods, now minus their casing, are now Immersed in acid-NOH3-about 12 to 13 times normal. The tank is heated to 109 degrees C for 30 hours. The uranium starts to dissolve giving off a gas, NO2 or NO, which they mix with water and O2 to make more acid. After 30 hours the uranium is dissolved and the very concentrated liquid is mixed with water and/or acid to get a concentration of 450 grams/liter of uranium with 1.5 normal acid. Laboratory checks are made of the fluid to indicate the amounts of water and acid to add. Fluid is then transferred by vacuum through pipes to Unit 12 at the rate of 20.9 liters/hour if at 100 percent production. There are three tanks for storage and two dissolving.
Unit 12: Here the process begins to remove the radioactivity from the mixture. The level of radioactivity is 30 curies/liter. The TBP is very difficult to obtain is cleaned and re-used. In the battery the radioactivity to the water leaving the uranium mixed with the solvent-TBP. The water goes to the waste treatment plant in Unit 24. The fluid goes through the cells in the battery getting more and more clear of radioactivity. Finally it is transferred to Unit 13.
Unit 13: The uranium and solvent are mixed with water, 0.02 normal. The process makes the uranium mix with water, separating this from the solvent. The uranium is about 70 grams/liter. In this form it is transferred to Unit 14.
Unit 14: Here the fluid is concentrated to 450 grams/liter of uranium with 170/180 mgms/litre of plutonium. It is then sent to Unit 15. Here the flow rate is at 150/175 percent of standard production rate-20.9 liters/hour.
Unit 15: The fluid is cleaned again and the uranium (still containing a proportion of plutonium) becomes mixed with the solvent. The residual radioactive water is sent for treatment. This is the same process as Unit 12.
Unit 16: In this process the uranium and plutonium are separated. The solvent containing uranium is mixed with hydrazine and uranium that had previously been put through electrolytic sell to make it plus 4 ions. Plutonium is extracted in the water, uranium in the solvent. The water containing plutonium is transferred to Unit 31, the solvent bearing uranium goes to Unit 17.
Unit 17: Here the solvent is mixed with water, 0.02 normal, and uranium is extracted with the water at a concentration of 70 grams/liter. This goes to Unit 18. This process is similar to the one used in Unit 13.
Unit 18: Like Unit 14. Here the fluid is concentrated to 450 grams/liter. Fluid then passes to Unit 22.
Unit 19: Same as Unit 12 but not used as the cleanliness of fluid coming from 17 was adequate.
Unit 20: Same as Unit 13 but not used for the same reason as above.
Unit 21: Here the fluid is put in a big tank containing 3000 liters and from this the fluid is sent to M3 for reconstituting of the uranium into metal form.
Unit 22: Final traces of radioactivity are removed from the column filled with silica. The silica absorbs the radioactivity and the fluid passed to Unit 21.
Unit 23: Doesn't exist.
Unit 24: In 1975 this unit was built to treat the waste materials being produced in Unit 12. The fluid was mostly acid, was put in a boiler, mixed with sugar and heated. Every 900 liters needs 6 kgms of sugar. The sugar breaks the acid producing gas (NO and NO2 which is mixed with water and air ?? more acid-nitric acid-to be returned to Unit 11) and concentrating the remaining waste. The radioactivity became 2000 curies/liter. It is kept in a big tank of 6500 liters for four/five years until the radioactivity has reduced, where it is then sent to Machon 4. It is circulated with water and air to keep it from heating up.
Unit 25: Treatment plant and storage of radioactive waste, all alkali of different concentrations help separate tanks.
Unit 30: Cleaning of TBP for re-use.
Unit 31: The plutonium concentration in the water coming from Unit 16 is 300 mgms/liter and here it is concentrated to 2200 mgms/liter. The fluid is placed in what were once called suitcase cans to prevent the liquid going critical. As the concentrate was 2 grams/liter and the cans contained 400 grams, this means that these cans contained 200 liters of fluid. These are then sent to Unit 36.
Unit 32: Does not exist
Unit 33: (See Unit 36 first). 20 liters of the 40 liters are put in a tank and heated with oxalate oxalit and H2O2 for four hours, making the powder finer. After cooling for eight hours, this liquid is transferred to a large glass bowl in a glove box. At the bottom of the bowl is a glass column into which a saucer shaped glass dish is placed. Eight liters are put in the bowl, the fluid is slowly sucked out of the bottom-beneath the glass dish-and the level is topped up with an additional five liters. This produces one dish-one cake of powder. Water is now passed through the bowl to clean the cake. The cake is dark sandy yellow. The dish is put aside and a clean dish is added. The remaining 7 liters are put in the bowl to produce a half-full dish. Then after this the other 20 liters are processed. Each time, the powder forms in the liquid and falls like snow into the glass dish. The 20 liters produce 11/2 dishes of powder. The other 20 liters produce a further 11/2 dishes (11/2 cal?). The powder is left for a few hours with air blowing over it to make it dry. The powder goes to Unit 37.
Unit 36: The fluid comes here from Unit 31 and more radioactivity is removed using two columns-one containing silica and the other "iyunak". The plutonium stays on the iyunac which is like sand and the fluid is drained out. It is 7.5 normal acid and is re-used. The iyunic containing Pu is washed with liters of water-0.02 normal acid. The Pu mixes with this. You get about 40 liters of fluid with about 8 to 9 grams/liter. This is sent to Unit 33.
Unit 37: The cakes from Unit 33 are put in an oven for six hours at 220 OC. Then it is passed through to the next glove box where HF gas from a pressure bottle (from Machon 3 where it is used a lot to produce natural uranium) is passed through the powder for two hours. At the same time it is heated to 400 OC. The powder then goes to another glove box where it is mixed with calcium (the sample will have been tested for Pu concentration and this tells how much calcium to add) and put in a chalk-like pot. A big charge of magnetism is sent through the powder for 2 minutes. This produces a "button" of plutonium mettle weighing approx 130 grams. Nine of these were made every week on average.
Unit 38: The calcium left over from the process in Unit 37 and the chalk pot are dissolved in aluminate and acid. The fluid from 33 is mixed with it and the remaining plutonium is extracted by passing the fluid through a column. The Pu stays in the column and water is pushed through to dissolve it. Then it goes back to Unit 33.
Unit 39: Does not exist.
Unit 40: Production of acid and alkali to different concentrations. Also vacuums and water-cooling.
Unit 41: Service units for the Pu processes.
Unit 42: Renewal of TBP
Unit 43 and 44: Do not exist.
Unit 45: Oxygen store for Unit 11.
Unit 50: Production of uranium 235 by a new process.
Unit 60: Electrical services floor Machon 2.
Unit 65: Vacuum production.
Unit 67: Cooling/heating for Unit 11.
Unit 68: Cooling water for Machon 2 by evaporation-28 OC.
Unit 69: Steam.
Unit 70: Electricity generation.
Unit 92: This was where until 1969 tritium was removed from heavy water.
Unit 92K: This is where heavy water from the reactor was made more pure-to 99.7 percent from a range of levels. Half a liter light water with 0.5 percent heavy water removed.
Unit 93: Tritium production: This unit started producing in 1984. Sticks of lithium and aluminum were brought from the reactor. The radiated Li and Al get another neutron and makes tritium, helium, and hydrogen. The helium and tritium are separated. The stick is heated to 625 degrees C. the Al melts and the gases tritium, helium and hydrogen are produced. First the helium is removed from the tritium and hydrogen by passing the gases through a palladium mercury column. Helium goes to a chimney. The hydrogen is removed by passing the gas through the asbestos palladium column. The result is 94 percent tritium and it is stored in powdered uranium until a total of 30,000 curies are produced, the pressure is 700mm inside the pipes. When the powdered uranium is heated to 42 OC the tritium comes out. Palladium asbestos was very difficult to obtain.
Unit 94: For experiments in the early 70s but no longer used.
Unit 95: Lithium 6 production: Here there are two cascades with three 13 meter commercial firms in Israel. The lithium 6 is removed and the remaining lithium returned to these firms. There is an electroanalysis cell with four anodes and the tank is the cathode or it may be the other way around. 13 liters per hour of (H? helium or hydrogen?) is passed into the tank and the Li comes from the other side. An amalgam of mercury and Li forms the bottom and is drained out into the first columns side there are small plastic shells. The amalgam drains down and meets lithium fluid coming up. Lithium six then stays in the amalgam and lithium 7 rises out of the top of the electrolytic tank. The amalgam goes into the container of graphite into which water is passed. Hydrogen is given off. The lithium (6 & 7) leaves the amalgam and the mercury is clean and returned for reprocessing. The lithium goes to the next electrolytic tank. In the first system you get 14 percent Li6, and they use 8000 amps. The second uses 3500 amps and produces 55 percent Li6 and the last system uses 1300 amps and produces 85/89 percent Li6. The Li6 is concentrated from a natural level of 7.3 percent (when the Li is returned the Li6 content is 5.5%) to 85/90 percent. The final liquid is like water but the powder is white. About 100 grams of 85 percent purity were produced every day when they started in 1982/83; later, they were able to produce 180 grams/day.
Unit 96: Not used but intended to purify Li6 to 90/95 per cent purity.
Unit 98: Deuterium production plant.
Unit 99: Lithium is extracted (from liquid to solid) as a by-product from Unit 95 and sent back to commercial firms.
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