External Work on Pakistan Plutonium Reactor Looks Nearly Done

A heavy-water reactor at Pakistan's Khushab nuclear complex in April 2008. Recent satellite images indicate the exterior of a fourth plutonium-production reactor at the site is almost finished.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Rachel Oswald
Dec. 22, 2013, 10:02 p.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
WANTS ANSWERS ON CLINTON EMAIL PROBE
Senate Judiciary Sends Questions to Loretta Lynch
17 hours ago
THE LATEST
ARE “OPEN TO NEGOTIATION”
Sens. Paul, Cruz, Johnson and Lee Oppose Senate Health Care Bill
1 days ago
THE LATEST

The four Senators released a joint statement, saying in part, "There are provisions in this draft that repreesnt an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs."

Source:
TRUMP SUGGESTED THERE WERE TAPES
No Comey Tapes
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon, "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Source:
DEVELOPING
Senate Healthcare Bill In Trouble?
1 days ago
BREAKING
BETTER CARE RECONCILIATION ACT
Senate Republicans Unveil Healthcare Bill
1 days ago
BREAKING
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login