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 »
HAPPENED LAST WEEK
Bannon Subpoenaed By Mueller
45 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. ...Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices in Washington."

Source:
RYBICKI TO DISCUSS CLINTON’S EMAIL SERVER
Wray Chief of Staff to Meet with House Investigators Thursday
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The chief of staff and senior counselor to FBI Director Christopher Wray is expected to meet with the House Oversight Committee Thursday. A spokesperson for House Oversight confirmed to the Washington Examiner that Jim Rybicki is expected to testify as part of the committee’s investigation into the Department of Justice’s probe in Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and the decision by then-FBI Director James Comey to announce there would be no criminal charges against the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee."

Source:
WON’T SAY WHETHER NORWAY IS PREDOMINATELY WHITE
Nielsen Defends Trump Before Senate Judiciary
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen confirmed that President Trump used 'tough language' in an Oval Office meeting last week over immigration policy, but she said she did not hear him describe some African countries and Haiti as 'shithole countries,' as has been reported." When pressed she, also said she "didn't know" whether Norway was a predominately white country.

Source:
TICKS UP TO 12.2%
Uninsured Rate Rose in 2017
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The percentage of Americans without health insurance ticked up 1.3 percentage points in 2017, ending the year at 12.2%, according to the latest data from Gallup. That’s still a lot lower than it was before the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion took effect, but this is the biggest single-year increase under the ACA."

Source:
TESTIMONY COULD HAPPEN AS SOON AS FRIDAY
Hicks to Meet with House Intel Committee
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as soon as this week, making her one of President Donald Trump's closest confidantes to be privately interviewed in the panel's Russia investigation, multiple sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN." She could testify as soon as Friday.

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