Washington, May 23: Pakistan is half way through the construction of its fourth nuclear reactor at Khushab, which once finished, will give it capability to speed up plutonium manufacturing, latest US satellite imagery has revealed.
The reactor will enable Islamabad to build smaller nuclear warheads, Washington-based eminent think-tank Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said. Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme is considered to be among the fastest growing in the world by the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute, with the estimates of Islamabad possessing 90-110 nuclear warheads.
Releasing the latest satellite imagery, ISIS said construction of the fourth reactor and supporting buildings is half way completed. Based on the available imagery the ISIS estimates that the construction of the fourth reactor is proceeding about 30 per cent faster than construction on the previous one and that a major external work could be complete within fifteen months.
The reactor, located 200 kilometres south of Islamabad, is the latest addition to the Khushab nuclear site and is dedicated to the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. In addition to the fourth reactor, the Khushab site includes two reactors similar in shape to the fourth one, a heavy water production plant, and a nominal 50 megawatt-thermal heavy water reactor completed in 1998.
"The increase in plutonium production represents a growing nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan," it said, adding that the US and the world community must increase efforts to convince Pakistan to stop blocking negotiations of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament.