Skip to comments.Pakistan Expanding Nuclear Program (maybe 40 to 50 plutonium bombs a year)
Posted on 07/23/2006 11:41:56 PM PDT by neverdem
Plant Underway Could Generate Plutonium for 40 to 50 Bombs a Year, Analysts Say
Pakistan has begun building what independent analysts say is a powerful new reactor for producing plutonium, a move that, if verified, would signal a major expansion of the country's nuclear weapons capabilities and a potential new escalation in the region's arms race.
Satellite photos of Pakistan's Khushab nuclear site show what appears to be a partially completed heavy-water reactor capable of producing enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year, a 20-fold increase from Pakistan's current capabilities, according to a technical assessment by Washington-based nuclear experts.
The construction site is adjacent to Pakistan's only plutonium production reactor, a modest, 50-megawatt unit that began operating in 1998. By contrast, the dimensions of the new reactor suggest a capacity of 1,000 megawatts or more, according to the analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security. Pakistan is believed to have 30 to 50 uranium warheads, which tend to be heavier and more difficult than plutonium warheads to mount on missiles.
"South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons, or at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material," the institute's David Albright and Paul Brannan concluded in the technical assessment, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post.
The assessment's key judgments were endorsed by two other independent nuclear experts who reviewed the commercially available satellite images, provided by Digital Globe, and supporting data. In Pakistan, officials would not confirm or deny the report, but a senior Pakistani official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that a nuclear expansion was underway.
"Pakistan's nuclear program has matured. We're now consolidating the program with further expansions," the official said. The expanded...
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
The first question I have is "how stable is the Pakistani government".
I don't think they're just going to build 50 fission bombs per year. If they added tritium production, they could build fusion bombs that would be much more destructive.
That's looking like a bigger mistake every day. What were Clinton and his advisors thinking? Why did they want Pakistan to be nuclear-armed? I know we have more influence in Pakistan than in Iran, but if there's a fundamentalist revolution in Pakistan we could be in big trouble.
india/pakistan conflict ping.
Didn't Pakistan have nuclear weapons before the 1990's?
lets see what our anti-proliferation ayotallahs say now.
good luck to India and the world. China must be really enjoying this piece.
It's lovely how Pakistan can't even feed its own people. When disaster strikes, they put their hand out faster than you can say Jack Robinson. And yet they can spend money on nuclear weapons which with the wrong government in power may find their way into the hands of the mullahs and other terrorist nut-jobs.
And AQ Khan (the Johnny Appleseed of nuclear terror) is still free as a bird.
Nope...India did...back in 1973...Pakistan got their bombs from China in the 1990s.
When a piece of crap Muslim nation (Pakistan) is making that many nukes they will definitely end up selling some. One way or another some Jihadist scum will buy one or two or more. Iran may have a few nukes it purchased. Muslims with nukes are like leaving children home alone with matches and a can of gasoline
Two nations having the most fun these days are China and Iran
This is just great. Pakistan is briskly increasing their arsenal size while we are capping our nuclear strength with the Indo-US nuclear deal.
If we get going to the extent of efficiently manufacturing anti-ballistic missile defense systems, they will be less costly and faster to build than nuclear weapons. We can win this thing.
Out of their ever loving minds.
OMG ping !!!
WASHINGTON: Pakistan is aiming to significantly expand its nuclear weapons arsenal with a powerful heavy-water reactor that could produce plutonium for 40 to 50 bombs a year, a prominent US think tank has reported.
Activities surrounding Pakistans Khushab nuclear reactor have been known to India for some time, but experts at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) are providing the dimensions of the new reactor for the first time, indicating a capacity of 1,000 megawatts or more.
This, they say, could presage a 20-fold increase from Pakistan's current nuclear capabilities of making perhaps only a couple of weapons every year.
Pakistan is currently estimated to have between 30 and 50 uranium-based nuclear weapons made over a period of 18 years. Plutonium-based weapons are said to be more compact and easier to mount on missiles.
The technical assessment by ISIS David Albright and Paul Brannan was posted on the Institutes website Sunday, evidently with an eye on the US-India Nuclear deal vote later this week, but it was also reported in the Washington Post Sunday night.
''South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons, or at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material,'' Albright, a well-known critic of Indias nuclear program and the US-India deal, said.
The ISIS paper, while ostensibly dealing with Pakistans expanded program, was also headlined, ''Is South Asia heading for a Dramatic Build-up in Nuclear Arsenals?''
An unnamed Pakistani official helped amplify the concern by confirming that Islamabad was ''consolidating the program with further expansions,'' and the expanded program includes ''some civilian nuclear power and some military components.''
Albright also reported that Pakistan had made no effort to conceal the construction of the new reactor, enabling even commercial satellites to take high resolution pictures.
While the timing of the report and its affirmation by US and Pakistani analysts is manifestly aimed at raising the ante before the US-India nuclear vote, the experts also suggested the new reactor is still a few years from completion.
''Based on the apparent rate of construction, the reactor could be finished in a few years. However, nothing suggests that Pakistan is moving quickly to finish this reactor,'' they wrote.
Among the reasons they cited for the slow pace were shortage of necessary nuclear reactor components or other parts of the weapons production infrastructure, such as the rate of heavy water production, the availability of sufficient fuel reprocessing capability, or the availability of sufficient modern tritium recovery and packaging facility.
The report said ''India is likely aware of this reactor construction at Khushab,'' and asked if this had influenced New Delhi to increase its own plutonium production capacity.
''India has insisted on maintaining outside of safeguards a major reprocessing facility and a large number of nuclear power reactors in the recent negotiations,'' it pointed out.
Pakistans original plutonium route to a bomb was through a 50-megawatt reactor at Khushab that was built with Chinese assistance and went critical in 1998. It is said to be capable of producing about 10 kilograms of plutonium a year, enough for about two warheads.
Construction of the new larger reactor began in 2000. According to ISIS, satellite photos taken in spring 2005 showed the frame of a rectangular building enclosing what appeared to be the round metal shell of a large nuclear reactor. A year later, in April 2006, the roof of the structure was still incomplete, allowing an unobstructed view of the reactor's features.
The ISIS report said such a reactor when completed could produce over 200 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year, assuming it operates at full power a modest 220 days per year. At 4 to 5 kilograms of plutonium per weapon, this stock would allow the production of over 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.
Pakistans nuclear program, aside from what its now disgraced expert A.Q.Khan stole from Europe, is mostly based on help from China. According to the Center for Non-proliferation Studies, most of Pakistans nuclear facilities have been build with Chinese help or bought from China.
China has also supplied Pakistan with nuclear weapons, enriched uranium, heavy water, tritium and other materials and components that have enabled it to go nuclear.
Times of india