Home / Opinion / Nuclear Weapons Capacity in S Asia | Beenish Altaf

Nuclear Weapons Capacity in S Asia | Beenish Altaf

In the report ‘A Normal Nuclear Pakistan’, the speculations that Pakistan may become the world’s third largest nuclear weapon state acquiring a stockpile of nearly 350 warheads a decade from now is just based on assumptions rather than any factual details. India-Pakistan: (1) Weapon-Grade Plutonium Metric Tons (Separated) 0.54 0.15. (2) Reactor-Grade Plutonium Metric Tons (Separated) 4.7 (IPFM 2013) 11.5 (IPFM 2006) 0. (3) Highly Enriched Uranium Metric Tons 3.2 3.1. (4) Production Reactor MW thermal (MWt) 100+ 25+30= 255 50+50+50+50= 200. (5) 8 (220 MW) Heavy Water Power Reactors + 1 (500 MW) Breeder Reactor MW electric (MWe) 1760+550= 2310(1250 + 140 kg Pu-239/yr) 0. (6) Uranium Enrichment Separative Work Unit Capacity (SWU) 15-30000 (existing) 30-60000 (expanded) 15-45000. (7) Reprocessing Plants Net Capacity tons of Heavy Metal/year (tHM/yr) 350 70-140.

(Sources: IPFM Reports, SAV blog)

It is clearly depicted in the given comparative table that India’s stockpile of fissile material is greater than that of Pakistan in case of uranium while there is a huge gap in case of plutonium stockpiles among both states — a very well know fact. It has also been reaffirmed by Toby Dalton while speaking in a workshop on Nuclear Security and Stability Dynamics in South Asia: Challenges and Opportunities, in Islamabad. Since India has a significant stockpile of reactor grade plutonium consequently it has enjoyed a historical advantage in plutonium production. Micheal Krepon does acknowledge that India also has an unsafeguarded nuclear power reactor under a very unwise provision of the India-US civil nuclear deal. These power plants could be used for bomb-making material, besides India is also working on “breeder” reactors, which could greatly increase their stocks of plutonium.

The CIRUS research reactor, at Trombay went critical on 10 July 1960, making it the second oldest reactor in India. ‘The 40MWt unsafeguarded reactor was capable of producing about 9-10kg of weapons-grade plutonium annually. The reactor was built with Canadian assistance while the United States provided the initial supply of heavy water. India pledged to the United States to use the CIRUS reactor only for peaceful purposes. Likewise, a 1956 Indo-Canadian agreement prohibited the use of plutonium produced in the reactor for non-peaceful purposes. Despite these restrictions, the CIRUS reactor provided the plutonium for India’s 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosions.” Canada and the United States subsequently ended all nuclear cooperation with India, including Canadian fuel shipments. CIRUS was shutdown in September 1997 for refurbishment and is scheduled to resume operation in 2003.’

The reaching critical identifies the problem that the supply of US nuclear fuel to India, under the deal as it is currently structured, would allow India to divert more of its own uranium resources to significantly expand production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. The agreement does not call for any additional measures that would constrain India’s fissile material or nuclear weapon production, does not call upon India’s further development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities and does not call upon India to sign or ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would prohibit India from resuming nuclear weapon testing.

Pakistan was confronted with a credible threat from India, which was pursuing “dangerous, provocative and irresponsible doctrines like Cold Start Doctrine and Proactive Strategy and whose conventional military build-up was Pakistan specific”. It was absurd to ask Pakistan to revert from Full-Spectrum Deterrence to Strategic Deterrence. Similarly, it is totally illogical to ask and for that matter expect Pakistan will go for signing CTBT without signing India and the US itself.

Under the deal India has pledged only to accept safeguards over civilian nuclear facilities of its choosing. This could allowIndia to exclude nuclear facilities and fuel for nuclear weapons from international safeguards. In addition, the safeguards would only apply to facilities and material manufactured once the deal is accepted—they will not cover the fissile material produced by India since its nuclear program began in 1948.

The factsheet by Reaching Critical Will Org., India already has about 500 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium, sufficient for roughly 100 nuclear warheads. It also has a stock of about 11.5 tons of reactor grade plutonium produced in the spent fuel of its power reactors. Under the terms of the deal, this stock of plutonium, too, would be kept out of safeguards.

Likewise the criteria for working out fissile materials weapons producing capabilities are not the same for India and Pakistan. The authors had taken into account the potential capability of Pakistan’s stockpiles while declaring it to be the fastest growing in the world, but in case of India they consider the actual production of warheads currently being produced instead of following uniform criteria in both cases. These proposals apparently seem to be presented from India’s security perspective if not presented on behalf of India. Meaning thereby, it is in order to maximize Indian strategic dominancy in the region.

— The writer is associated with Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.

Source: http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=282356

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