The exterior of Pakistan’s newest plutonium-production reactor appears almost complete, though it is unclear when the reactor will be up and running.
Satellite photography captured as recently as Nov. 1 “clearly shows that the external construction of the fourth reactor building [at the Khushab nuclear complex] appears nearly complete,” Serena Kelleher-Vergantini and Robert Avagyan find in an Institute for Science and International Security report published on Friday.
However, the imagery also shows that a “considerable amount of additional construction” remains under way at the reactor site, according to the report.
Islamabad does not provide updates to the international community on the status of efforts to expand its fissile-material production capabilities. That leaves the public just a few sources of information about the program, such as commercial-satellite images.
“Given that satellite imagery provides limited indication of the reactor’s operational status, predicting when the fourth reactor will become operational is difficult,” write Kelleher-Vergantini and Avagyan.
The fourth reactor appears to have a layout slightly different from the two reactors that immediately preceded it at Khushab. Construction of the new heavy-water reactor has also moved at a more sluggish pace than was earlier predicted. This could be the result of working out the kinks of a new reactor blueprint or for an entirely different reason that cannot be detected by satellite, according to the ISIS report.
The space-based surveillance did not turn up any signs that work had begun on a potential fifth plutonium reactor at Khushab, the authors noted.
Pakistan is believed to be growing its plutonium-production capacity in order to allow it to acquire an arsenal of plutonium-fueled warheads. Its current nuclear arsenal uses uranium-based warheads.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
- 1 High Court Vacancy Spells Trouble for Congress
- 2 Why Four Justices Were Against the Supreme Court’s Huge Gay-Marriage Decision
- 3 The Winners and Losers From the South Carolina Republican Debate
- 4 Bush Family Values Pit Jeb Against Grover Norquist
- 5 How (Arrogant, Prickly, Smart) John Kasich Would Upend 2016
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.