Pakistan expanding its nuclear capability
By Robert Windrem
updated 10:53 a.m. ET, Tues., May 12, 2009
On the dusty plain 110 miles southwest of Islamabad, not far from an area controlled by the Taliban, two large new structures are rising, structures that in light of Pakistan’s internal troubles must be considered ominous for the stability of South Asia and, for that matter, the world.
Without any public U.S. reproach, Pakistan is building two of the developing world’s largest plutonium production reactors, which experts say could lead to improvements in the quantity and quality of the country’s nuclear arsenal, now estimated at 60 to 80 weapons.
What makes the project even more threatening is that it is unique.
“They’re building a capability beyond any reasonable requirement,”
Albright estimates the new reactors are “at least on the order of 100 megawatts,” each capable of producing enough plutonium for “four or five nuclear weapons a year.” While small by power reactor standards, that’s substantially larger than the research reactors that provided material for the weapons programs of Israel, India and North Korea. He also believes that the reactors could have a separate mission: producing tritium, an element critical to the development of thermonuclear weapons, what used to be called H-bombs
Mian notes that Pakistan already has intermediate-range and short-range missiles capable of hitting any target in India, as well as submarine-launched cruise missiles.
The Pakistani government has no official comment on the reactors or the suspected upgrade in uranium enrichment. A senior Pakistani official who worked in the nuclear weapons program would only say “these reactors are part of plutonium production for the classified program” — code for nuclear weapons development.
There is not even a ruse that the Khushab reactors would produce electrical power for energy-starved Pakistan.
“There’s no connection to the national grid, no turbine at this site,” Albright said. “These kinds of reactors can be scaled up to power, but they need more cooling towers to make them large enough for electrical generation, and we don’t see that.”
MUCH MORE AT SOURCE: MSNBC
United States: 9,900 (including 5,000 awaiting dismantlement)
Russia: 8,500 to 10,000 (large uncertainty as to how many are operational vs. awaiting dismantlement)
France: Fewer than 300
United Kingdom: 185
North Korea: 5-10