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 »
RELIEVES MARK TONER
Former Fox Anchor Heather Nauert to Be State Dept. Spokeswoman
37 minutes ago
THE DETAILS
NOT WORRIED ABOUT BUDGET NEUTRALITY
Trump Wants to Slash Corporate Rate to 15%
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
PROMISES “MASSIVE” CUTS
Trump Tax Reform Package Coming Next Week
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

President Trump today said he'll be releasing his tax reformpacakge next week around the 100-day mark of his presidency. He promised that "businesses and individuals will receive a 'massive tax cut ... bigger I believe than any tax cut ever."

Source:
ONLY BROAD PRINCIPLES
Mulvaney: Tax Reform Details Won’t Be Released This Week
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Despite President Trump's announcement that his tax reform proposal would be released this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney now says it will be ready in June. This week's announcement will be limited to "specific governing principles."

Source:
OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS
Trump To Sign Order Calling For Expanded Drilling
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump is expected Monday to sign an executive order which will mark his administration's first action on offshore oil and gas drilling. The order is expected to call for a "review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration."

Source:
×
×

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