Pakistan nuclear expansion raises US concerns

untitled5.bmpWASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pakistan is building a new nuclear reactor that could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year in what would be a major expansion of its nuclear program and could prompt an intensified arms race in South Asia, a report said Monday.

But U.S. officials and congressional aides, who confirmed the Pakistani plan, said it was unlikely to derail a nuclear cooperation accord with India or the sale of U.S.-made F-16 jets to Islamabad.

News of the planned new Pakistani facility was confirmed as the U.S. Congress faced targets for action this week on both an Indian cooperation accord and the F-16s deal.

 

“We have been aware of these plans, and we discourage any use of that facility for military purposes such as weapons development,” White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.

He said the administration “discourage(s) expansion and modernization of nuclear weapons programs, both of India and Pakistan,” nuclear rivals who refused to sign the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

While U.S. officials knew about the reactor project, congressional aides said Congress was largely unaware until a report in the Washington Post on Monday citing an analysis of satellite photos and other data by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

The analysis concluded Pakistan was building a second larger heavy water reactor at its Khushab complex that could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.

Construction apparently began sometime after March 2000. But the analysis said Pakistan did not appear to be hastening completion, possibly due to shortages of reactor components or weapons production infrastructure.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pakistan is building a new nuclear reactor that could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year in what would be a major expansion of its nuclear program and could prompt an intensified arms race in South Asia, a report said Monday.

But U.S. officials and congressional aides, who confirmed the Pakistani plan, said it was unlikely to derail a nuclear cooperation accord with India or the sale of U.S.-made F-16 jets to Islamabad.

News of the planned new Pakistani facility was confirmed as the U.S. Congress faced targets for action this week on both an Indian cooperation accord and the F-16s deal.

 

“We have been aware of these plans, and we discourage any use of that facility for military purposes such as weapons development,” White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.

He said the administration “discourage(s) expansion and modernization of nuclear weapons programs, both of India and Pakistan,” nuclear rivals who refused to sign the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

While U.S. officials knew about the reactor project, congressional aides said Congress was largely unaware until a report in the Washington Post on Monday citing an analysis of satellite photos and other data by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

The analysis concluded Pakistan was building a second larger heavy water reactor at its Khushab complex that could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.

Construction apparently began sometime after March 2000. But the analysis said Pakistan did not appear to be hastening completion, possibly due to shortages of reactor components or weapons production infrastructure.

He and other lawmakers accused the State Department of withholding until after the vote an embarrassing report which will show Indian entities have sold or received weapons of mass destruction technology from Iran or Syria. A department spokesman said the report would be out “shortly.”

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