MONITORING REPORT ISB: Pakistans fourth heavy water reactor at Khushab nuclear site, which allows it to build a larger number of miniaturised plutonium-based nuclear weapons, now appears to be operational, a US think-tank has said.
“A recently purchased Digital Globe high resolution satellite image dated January 15, 2015 shows that Khushabs fourth reactors external construction is complete and has become operational,” David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini of ISIS said.
“This assessment is based on the presence of a very specific signature: steam is venting from the reactors cooling system,” he said.
“Its expansion appears to be part of an effort to increase the production of weapons-grade plutonium, allowing Pakistan to build a larger number of miniaturized plutonium-based nuclear weapons that can complement its existing highly enriched uranium nuclear weapons,” they wrote.
They said that originally, the site consisted of a heavy water production plant and an estimated 50 megawatt-thermal (MWth) heavy water reactor, both of which became operational in the 1990s.