Pakistan 'building reactor for 50 nukes'

Pakistan is reported to be building a nuclear reactor that could produce enough plutonium for up to 50 nuclear weapons a year.

    The reactor construction site appeared on satellite photos

    Satellite photographs show what appears to be the construction site for a larger nuclear reactor next to Pakistan's only plutonium production reactor, according to an analysis by experts at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

    The new reactor would be a major expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and could intensify the arms race in South Asia, according to the 

    assessment, initially reported by The Washington Post and posted on the institute's website.

    Analysts conclude that the diameter of the structure's metal shell suggests a very large reactor "operating in excess of 1,000 megawatts thermal," according to the report.
       
    "Such a reactor could produce over 200kg of weapons-grade plutonium per year, assuming it operates at full power a modest 220 days per year," the technical assessment said.

    Nuclear weapons

    "At four to five kilogrammes of plutonium per weapon, this stock would allow the production of over 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year."
       
    Pakistan is currently capable of producing about 10kg of plutonium a year, enough for about two warheads, The Washington Post said.

    Aslam declined to say if Pakistan
    was building a new reactor

    Construction of the new reactor in Khushab apparently began sometime after March 2000.

    The report's authors said Pakistan did not appear to be moving quickly to finish the reactor and said it might be facing shortages of reactor components or weapons production infrastructure.

    A senior Pakistani official told the Washington Post that nuclear expansion was under way.
      
    "Pakistan's nuclear programme has matured. We're now consolidating the programme with further expansions," the official was quoted as saying.

    The United States said it knew about the development of a new reactor and urged Islamabad not to use it for military purposes.

    New reactor

    Tasnim Aslam, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokeswoman, declined to say whether a new reactor was being constructed, but said that it was well known that there was a nuclear weapons programme and facilities at Khushab.
       
    "Its coordinates are exchanged even with India under a 1988 agreement on nuclear facilities and installations. This list is exchanged every year on January 1," Aslam said.
      
    Aslam said Pakistan was against a nuclear and conventional weapons arms race in the region.

    Pakistan and its neighbour India - who have fought three wars since 1947 - both have nuclear weapons and have never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.

    Pakistan's tribal areas: 'Neither faith nor union found'

    Pakistan's tribal areas: 'Neither faith nor union found'

    Residents of long-neglected northwestern tribal belt say incorporation into Pakistan has left them in a vacuum.