Pakistan could be constructing new nuclear site, say analysts

Pakistan's move is inconsistent with the principles of the Nuclear Suppliers Group the country is seeking to join, said the analysis. Photograph:( AFP )

Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan Sep 17, 2016, 01.43 AM (IST)
Pakistan could be building a new uranium enrichment complex, an analysis conducted by IHS Jane's Intelligence, a British publishing company specialising in military, aerospace and transportation topics, has said. 

The analysis was conducted by Jane's Intelligence review using satellite images taken by Airbus Defence and Space on 28 September, 2015. The review was done again on 18 April, 2016, Indian news agency PTI reported today.  

"The construction of a new site, based in the town of Kahuta some thirty kilometres east of Islamabad, provides fresh evidence of how Pakistan is seeking to boost its atomic arsenal,"  th PTI report says. 

The goal, however, is inconsistent with the principles of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) the country is seeking to join, said the analysis. The country is believed to have 120 nuclear weapons, more than India, Israel and North Korea.

"The area of interest is approximately 1.2 hectares and is located within the secure area of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), in the southwestern part of the complex,"  the report says. 

A 2015 report written by scholars at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center also noted that Pakistan could increase its stockpile by 20 warheads a year and have the world's third largest in a decade.

Karl Dewey, a proliferation analyst at IHS Jane's added: "It is sited within an established centrifuge facility, has strong security and shows some of the structural features of a possible new uranium enrichment facility. This makes it a strong candidate for a new centrifuge facility." 

The structure of the site is along the lines of facilities built by URENCO, a nuclear fuel company operating several uranium enrichment plants in Europe, the analysis said.

"This may be more than coincidence as AQ Khan, considered by many to be the founder of Pakistan's nuclear programme, worked at URENCO before stealing centrifuge designs and returning to Pakistan," said Charlie Cartwright, an imagery analyst for IHS Jane's.

(WION with inputs from PTI)