WASHINGTON: Even as the US remains focused on concerns over the Taliban’s relentless advance towards Islamabad, Pakistan is increasing its capacity to produce plutonium at its Khushab nuclear facility, a Washington-based science think tank has reported.
Citing new satellite images of the facility, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said the imagery suggests construction of the second Khushab reactor is “likely finished and that the roof beams are being placed on top of the third Khushab reactor hall”.
“The operational status of the second reactor is unknown, but it could start in the near future,” said the report put together by ISIS president David Albright and senior research analyst Paul Brannan.
“Pakistan’s increase in plutonium production capability stands to accelerate an arms race with India. In the current climate, with Pakistan’s leadership under duress from daily acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces and organized political opposition, the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question,” it said.
The two expressed concern that the current US policy, focused primarily on shoring up Pakistan’s resources for fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda, has had the “unfortunate effect of turning the United States into more of a concerned by-stander of Pakistan’s expansion of its ability to produce nuclear weapons”.
The report came out on a day when secretary of state Hillary Clinton voiced concerns over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons during a testimony before the House Appropriations Committee.
Clinton said: “The final thing I would say is, why are we so concerned about this? Well, one of the reasons is nuclear weapons.”