South Africa’s Secret Nuclear History

Posted: August 18, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When you think of nuclear weapons, you probably think of America, Russia, China or Iran. But you might be shocked to discover that South Africa had its very own secret nuclear programme that was developed during apartheid.

While sources disagree about the exact date that the Apartheid Government initiated their nuclear arms programme, many believe that the decision “develop a limited nuclear deterrent capabilities” can be traced back to as as early as 1974.

In order to achieve this goal, the government stepped up the production at their uranium enrichment plant at Valindaba, known as the “Y-plant”. Numerous nuclear tests were also performed at the Somerset West explosives installation near Cape Town.
While the Apartheid Government’s activities during the 70’s were mainly secret, their actions did alarm leaders in the Soviet Union and the U.S. The Soviets allegedly considered a pre-emptive strike on the Y-plant, an option that U.S. officials reportedly rejected.
In 1977, South Africa successfully managed first full-scale nuclear explosive device based on a gun-type design.

According to reports, a U.S. Vela surveillance satellite detected a distinct light event off of Africa’s southern coast in 1979. U.S. officials believed that the source of the light was a nuclear test performed by the Apartheid Government, producing an intense double flash of light. The Apartheid Government denied all knowledge of the event. Later, representatives from the government stated that South Africa could not have been responsible for the double flash as it did not possess a complete nuclear device until November 1979.

According to reports, the Apartheid Government managed to produce a total of six nuclear devices by the 1980’s. The Apartheid Government was able to do so by mastering the uranium production and enrichment process in order to develop a complete nuclear fuel cycle with advanced waste management techniques.

But while South Africa was able to produce a number of nuclear weapons, by the late 1980’s, the Apartheid Government was facing incredible political pressure, both locally and abroad.

One of the government’s strongest bargaining chips was the ability to negotiate with regards to their nuclear weapons programme. Under great international pressure, South Africa begun nuclear disarmament in 1989.

What happened to all of South Africa’s nuclear scientists? Where did they go and what have they been doing for the past twenty years? Some might be driven by money, some by ideology…but it’s hard to imagine that they have been sitting around twiddling their thumbs…There must be plenty of rouge nations or extremist groups that would the skills that only nuclear scientists could provide. Could nuclear experiments still be secretly going on in South Africa?

What do you think?

For a more detailed overview of South Africa’s secret nuclear history, click here

For more information about the South Africa’s disarmament process, click here

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Comments
  1. cyberogue says:

    You should check out the facts about Red Mercury. A book published on it seemed to think SA had been trading in the stuff.

  2. secretsablog says:

    Is Red Mercury the name of the book?

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