Srinivas Laxman / TNN / Sep 11, 2021, 01:02 IST
MUMBAI: Pakistan continues to expand its nuclear arsenal with more warheads, more delivery systems and a growing fissile materials production industry, according to a report in the US-based ‘Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists’ dated September 9.
The Bulletin was started in 1945 by scientists who were part of the ‘Manhattan Project’, which designed and developed the world’s first atomic bomb.
According to the Bulletin, Pakistan’s stockpile could grow to around 200 warheads by 2025, if the current trend continues. “Pakistan is clearly engaged in a significant build-up of its nuclear forces and has been for some time,” says the journal, adding that Pakistan now has a nuclear weapons stockpile of approximately 165 warheads.
Quoting a study in early 2021, it states that Pakistan could have produced 690 grams of tritium by the end of 2020, sufficient to boost over 100 weapons.
The report has emphasised that Pakistan’s expansion of nuclear weapons will largely depend upon India strengthening its nuclear weapons programme.
Analysis of a large number of commercial satellite images of Pakistani army garrisons and air force bases shows what appear to be launchers and facilities that might be related to the nuclear forces.
“With several new delivery systems in development, four plutonium production reactors and an expanding uranium enrichment infrastructure, however, Pakistan’s stockpile has the potential to increase further over the next 10 years,” the Bulletin report says.
The Bulletin quotes former Pakistani officials saying that this particular emphasis on non-strategic nuclear weapons is specifically intended as a reaction to India’s perceived “Cold Start” doctrine which “revolves around India maintaining the capability to launch large-scale conventional strikes or incursions against Pakistani territory below the threshold at which Pakistan would retaliate with nuclear weapons”.
According to the Bulletin, Pakistan has a well-established and diverse fissile material production complex that is expanding. It includes the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant east of Islamabad, which appears to be growing with the near completion of what could be another enrichment plant, as well as the enrichment plant at Gadwal to the north of the capital city.
Four heavy-water plutonium production reactors appear to have been completed at what is normally referred to as the Khushab Complex, some 33km (20 miles) south of Khushab in Punjab province. Three of the reactors at the complex have been added in the past 10 years.
The New Labs Reprocessing Plant at Nilore, east of Islamabad, which reprocesses spent fuel and extracts plutonium, has been expanded. A second reprocessing plant located at Chashma in the north-western part of Punjab province may have been completed and become operational by 2015.
A significant expansion to the Chashma complex was under construction between 2018 and 2020, according to the report.
Nuclear-capable missiles and their mobile launchers are developed and produced at the National Defence Complex (sometimes called the National Development Complex) located in the Kala Chitta Dahr mountain range west of Islamabad.