‘Pakistan close to boosting atom bomb ability’

VIENNA: Pakistan is close to completing a second plutonium-producing reactor, and is well into building a third, and these reactors could increase its ability to make atomic bombs, a United States think-tank said on Thursday.

“The wider implication … (is that) there is a real risk this will exacerbate an India-Pakistan nuclear arms race and increase tensions more broadly between the two,” the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a report.

The report included commercial satellite images taken two weeks ago and in February and May showing construction of the second and third Khushab complexes.

The 10-page report estimated the reactors would run on power of “about 100-megawatts or more”, which could enable the two combined to yield plutonium for 8 to 10 atomic bombs a year.

Pakistan has an operating heavy-water reactor and heavy-water production plant already at Khushab.

A row of cooling towers indicated the second reactor was close to completion and could be ready to operate in a year’s time, according to the 10-page report.

“Once completed, these reactors will increase several-fold Pakistan’s ability to make weapons-grade plutonium (fuel).” “When finished…will allow a significant increase in the quantity and quality of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”

The report said India could easily match Pakistan’s moves given its own ability to churn out plutonium in heavy water reactors and a fast-breeder reactor under construction.

Pakistan built its first nuclear power station in 1972 with Canadian help. But Western countries, under pressure from Washington, later severed cooperation amid suspicion that Pakistan was covertly developing nuclear weapons. reuters

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