Despite being in the throes of a crippling political and economic crisis and almost entirely dependent on handouts from the United States and multilateral aid, Pakistan is poking a finger in the international community’s eye. Days after it was revealed that Islamabad has doubled its nuclear weapons’ inventory in the past decade, American experts have discovered that it has begun building a fourth plutonium-producing reactor to produce even more nuclear bombs to add to the 100-plus it already has.
The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) announced on Wednesday that it has obtained commercial satellite imagery from January 15, 2011 that shows what appears to be a fourth reactor under construction at Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear site. The reactor construction was not visible during a previous satellite pictures last November.
“Pakistan is determined to produce considerably more plutonium for nuclear weapons,” ISIS said in an outline of the progression of the country’s plutonium reactors. While Pakistan’s initial nuclear weapons were enriched uranium-based, it expanded to plutonium-based weapons (which are more compact) with the commissioning in 1998 of the first reactor at the Khushab site, which lies southwest of Islamabad. Sometime between 2000 and 2002, Pakistan began constructing a second reactor at the site, and in 2006, it began building a third reactor, adjacent to the second Khushab reactor.