Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pakistan expanding nuclear sites

Satellite photos released show Pakistan has expanded two sites crucial to its nuclear program as part of an effort to bolster the destructive power of its atomic arsenal, a US arms control institute said. The commercial images reveal a major expansion of a chemical plant complex near Dera Ghazi Khan that produces uranium hexalfuoride and uranium metal, materials used to produce nuclear weapons, said analysts at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). At a site near Rawalpindi, photos suggest the Pakistanis "have added a second plutonium separation plant adjacent to the old one," the ISIS report said. Pakistan in recent years also has been building two new plutonium production reactors.

"All together, these recent expansion activities indicate that Pakistan is indeed progressing in a strategic plan to improve the destructiveness and deliverability of its nuclear arsenal" .

The expansion would enable Pakistan to build smaller, lighter plutonium-fission weapons and thermonuclear weapons that employ "plutonium as the nuclear trigger and enriched and natural enriched uranium in the secondary”.

The report urged the US government to persuade Pakistan to halt production of fissile material and join talks for a treaty that would ban the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

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