July 24, 2006

Pakistan in large-scale nuclear expansion: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan is building a reactor that
could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons in
what would be a major expansion of its nuclear program, The
Washington Post reported on Monday.

Satellite photos show what appears to be the construction
site for a larger nuclear reactor adjacent to Pakistan's only
plutonium production reactor, according to an analysis by
nuclear experts at the Washington-based Institute for Science,
the newspaper said.

The analysts concluded that the diameter of the structure's
metal shell suggests a very large reactor "operating in excess
of 1,000 megawatts thermal," the Post said.

"Such a reactor could produce over 200 kilograms of
weapons-grade plutonium per year, assuming it operates at full
power a modest 220 days per year," the newspaper said, quoting
the technical assessment. "At 4 to 5 kilograms of plutonium per
weapon, this stock would allow the production of over 40 to 50
nuclear weapons a year."

Pakistan currently is capable of producing about 10
kilograms of plutonium a year, enough for about two warheads,
the Post said.

Construction of the new reactor apparently began sometime
in 2000. In April 2006, the roof of the structure was still
incomplete, allowing a unobstructed view of the reactor's
features, the newspaper reported.

"South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that
could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear
weapons, or at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military
fissile material," the institute's David Albright and Paul
Brannan concluded in the technical assessment, the newspaper

The article said a copy of the assessment was provided to
The Washington Post.

Pakistani officials would neither confirm or deny the
report, but a senior Pakistani official, speaking on condition
of anonymity, acknowledged that a nuclear expansion was under
way, the Post reported.

The newspaper reported that a Europe-based diplomat and
nuclear expert and a U.S.-based expert who reviewed the
commercially available satellite images and supporting data
concurred fully with the institute's estimates.