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Key Issues Nuclear Weapons The Basics Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Facilities

Nuclear Weapons Research, Development, Testing, Production and Naval Nuclear Propulsion Facilities: Pakistan

Chagai Hills

Prior to its May 1998 nuclear tests, it was widely reported that Pakistan's nuclear weapons test site was located in the Chagai Hills region of Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province. The Chagai Hills region is an extensive area, and no additional details were published concerning the exact location of the test site. This site is not under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Balochistan Plateau in western Pakistan lies east of the Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges, with an average elevation of about 600 meters. Mountains spread in various directions, attaining elevations of 2,000-3,000 meters, though plateaus and basins predominate the scene. The Toba Kakar Range and Chagai hills in the north form the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan. The mountains and hills are carved by innumerable channels which contain water

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only after rains, though little water reaches the low-lying basins. Numerous alluvial fans are found in the Balochistan Desert. A structural depression separates the Chagai Hills and the Ras Koh Range to the south, consisting of flood plains and areas covered with thin layers of salt. Outside the monsoon zone, Balochistan receives scanty and irregular rainfall (4 inches); the temperature is very high in summer and very low in winter. Apart from the Toba Kakar Range, which has scattered juniper, tamarisk and pistachio trees, the other ranges are largely devoid of vegetation. Most of the people, therefore, lead nomadic life, raising camels, sheep and goats. The Siahan Range is in the west-central part of Balochistan, while the coastal Mekran ranges which skirts the south of Pakistan contains valuable deposits of coal, iron, gas, cromite, copper and several other minerals. Balochistan is fortunate to have considerable mineral wealth of natural gas, coal, chromite, lead, sulphur and marble.

On 28 May 1998 Pakistan announced that it had conducted five (simultaneous) nuclear weapons tests, in response to the same number of nuclear tests by India. Two days later, Pakistan conducted at least one additional underground test. Contrary to prior expectations, these tests were not conducted in the Chagai Hills, but rather at two widely separated locations to the south.

The Chasma [Chashma] Nuclear Power Plant [CHASNUPP] project was initiated in the 1970s with French assistance, with primary work in Central Punjab conducted by the French firm Saint Gobain. The a 137 MW(e) project was terminated by France in 1978. The French decision was based on the failure of Pakistan to sign the NPT and accept safeguards on its entire nuclear program. As part of this project, France agreed to supply Pakistan a reprocessing plant. In response to American pressure, France and Pakistan eventually agreed that reprocessing plant would be placed under international safeguards. The IAEA accepted the application for this facility in February 1976. By the time France decided to terminate assistance to Pakistan, at least some important technological information had already been transferred to Pakistan. Neither the small New Labs reprocessing facility nor the larger one at Chasma are under IAEA safeguards. Prior to Pakistan's 1998 nuclear tests, US officials downplayed Pakistan's reprocessing capabilities, suggesting that the reprocessing plant at Chasma as "an empty shell" -- but after the tests sources claimed that know-how which had been provided to Pakistan was "very considerable."

The project subsequently resumed as a cooperative project between Pakistan and the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC). The 300 MWe nuclear power station was based on a design by the China National Nuclear Corporation that replicated China's first indigenous reactor, Qinshan-1, though the design was subjected to repeated changes. The first concrete was poured on 01 August 1993, and primary construction of CHASNUPP was completed in late 1995, paving the way for equipment installation and construction of ancillary facilities. The Chasma nuclear power plant began operations in November 1999. CHASNUPP) was connected to a power grid on 14 June 2000. The Karachi Electric Supply Company, which had been receiving power from KANUPP since 1972, started receiving power from CHASNUPP.

As of 1998 a Light-water, low-enriched uranium, 310-MWe reactor was underconstruction. Another identical reactor was planned for construction. Both of these reactors are planned to be covered by IAEA safeguards.

Dera Ghazi Khan
Beginning in 1972 the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission began geological surveys to find mineable deposits of uranium. Uranium deposits were found in several locations in Pakistan. The Atomic Energy Minerals Centre (AEMC) in Lahore was responsible for the exploration and mining operations. The Siwalik Hills, west of Dera Ghazi Khan, was indentified as the most promising location. Even this uranium ore is of relatively low grade, containing only a few kg of uranium per ton [compared to tens of kilograms in high-grade Canadian or Australian ore].

In 1996 Pakistan launched a five-year effort to locate new uranium resources. The $7 million effort included exploratory drilling, reconnaisance and radon track density surveys and mapping in the areas of north and south Nangar Nai, Khara-Murghan Zai and Pitek Sori Gorakh in the Dera Ghanzi Khan region. The Pakisani uranium extraction plant, located in the same region, was designed by Pakistani chemical, mechanical and electrical engineers from AEMC and other PAEC centers with the assistance from other Pakistani industrial concerns which manufactured certain key components. Construction of the uranium yellow cake plant was completed in short order, and the first yellow cake, which is a concentrated form of uranium, was produced at the plant within 12 months of the start of construction.

Golra Sharif
Golra Sharif is reportedly the location of an IAEA un-safeguarded uranium centrifuge enrichment facility, which was initially designed to contain as many as several thousand centrifuges. However, the government of Pakistan has issued assurances that the facility is safe and secure. The current status of this facility is uncertain based on open sources, though activities at this site may include test equipment and facilities for use at Kahuta. Golra Sharif, a prominent village noted for the Shrine of Syed Meher Ali Shah, is located 18 km west of Rawalpindi in sector E-11 of the Islamabad Federal Capital administrative district.

Issa Khel
The projected Issa Khel uranium mill is located near the Lakki [Qabul Khel] uranium mine, to which it is connected via a rail line. This site would not be applicable for IAEA safeguards.

Khan Research Laboratories
A.Q. Khan Laboratories
Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL)

Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories [KRL], Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging center for long-rnage missile development. The primary Pakistani fissile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium [HEU]. This facility is not under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, but according the the governemnt of Pakistan the facility is physically secure and safe.

Dr. A.Q. Khan is a German-educated metallurgist who until 1975 was employed at the URENCO uranium enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands. A year after India's 1974 nuclear test, Dr. Khan departed URENCO with blueprints for the uranium centrifuge, and information on URENCO's key suppliers. A.Q. Khan initially worked under Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), headed by Munir Ahmad Khan, for a short period. But the pair fell out, and in July 1976, Bhutto gave A.Q. Khan autonomous control of the uranium enrichment project, reporting directly to the prime minister's office, which arrangement has continued since. A.Q. Khan founded the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) on 31 July 1976, with the exclusive task of indigenous development of Uranium Enrichment Plant. Within the next five years the target was achieved. On 01 May 1981 ERL was renamed as Dr. A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). It was enrichment of Uranium in KRL that ultimately led to the successful detonation of Pakistan's first nuclear device on 28 May 1998.

Chinese assistance in the development of gas centrifuges at Kahuta was indicated by the presence of Chinese technicians at the facility in the early 1980s. The uranium enrichment facility began operating in 1984, but suffered serious start up problems. Kahuta began producing HEU in 1986, and Pakistan's fabrication of weapons may have begun soon thereafter, with the HEU hexafluoride being made into uranium metal which was machined into weapon pits. By the late 1980s Pakistan began advertising its nuclear potential by publishing technical articles on centrifuge design, including a 1987 article co-authored by A. Q. Khan on balancing sophisticated ultracentrifuge rotors.

Operating at full capacity, Kahuta is estimated to have the potential to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for as many as 3 to 6 weapons each year. But the gas centrifuge plant has been plagued by chronic delays. As of 1984 there were reportedly approximately 1,000 centrifuges operating at the facility. By 1991 about 3000 machines were thought to be operating with a production capacity of 30-50 kg U-235/year, enough for 2-3 implosion weapons a year.

In 1988 the US and Pakistan reached an informal understanding, which according to US officials went into effect in 1993, under which Pakistan agreed to freeze production of bomb-grade HEU indefinitely, and to refrain from enriching uranium to a level above 20% U-235. Prior to the 1998 nuclear tests, the US had reportedly obtained intelligence indicating that Pakistan had stopped production of bomb-grade uranium. However, following the tests A.Q. Khan claimed that Pakistan had never stopped making bomb-grade HEU during the 1980s and 1990s, and reportedly US officials said "we don't have enough information" to conclude that Pakistan was not making weapons-grade HEU. As of mid-1998 estimates of Pakistan's HEU inventory ranged between 100 and 500 kilograms. Assuming that Pakistan would need about 20 kilograms for a single weapon, Pakistan's stockpile might be estimated at between 5 and 25 weapons. In early 1996 it was reported that the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory received 5,000 ring magnets, which can be used in gas centrifuges, from the China National Nuclear Corporation, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation, a state-owned corporation. The US intelligence community believed the magnets were for special suspension bearings at the top of the centrifuge rotating cylinders. The shipment was made between late 1994 and mid-1995 and was reportedly worth $70,000. The ring magnets would allow Pakistan to effectively double its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production. Pakistan has operated the plant only intermittently, and little information is publicly available concerning annual or total production of weapon-grade uranium at Kahuta.

The Kahuta facility has also been a participant in Pakistan's missile development program. Pakistan operates a ballistic missile research center at Kahuta along with its uranium enrichment operation. KRL has successfully developed and tested Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles based on liquid fuel technology and its associated sub systems. Saudi Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz toured the Kahuta facility in May 1999, possibly in connection with purchases of the Ghauri missiles.

KRL has also undertaken many other defense projects of national importance to enable Pakistan to become self-reliant in various sophisticated weapon systems and to save valuable foreign exchange. These projects include:

Surface-to-Al-Anti-Aircraft Guided Missiles - Anza Mk 1, and Anza Mk-II.
'Baktar Shikan' Anti-Tank Guided Missile Weapon System.
Anti-personnel Mine Sweeping Line Charges.
Anti-Tank Mine Clearing Line Charge-Plofadder-195 AT.
Laser Range Finder.
Laser Threat Sensor
Laser Actuated Target
Laser Aiming Device
Add-On Reactive Armour Kit
Anti-Tank Ammunition-Armour Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discordin Sabot (APFSDS)
Remote Control Mine Exploder (RCME)
Digital Goniometer
Power Conditioners for Weapon Systems for TOW ATGM Weapon System, "Baktar Shikan" Weapon System, "ANZA" Training Missile System
Switched Mode Power Supplies for LAADS Radar, Skyguard Radar, Air Defense Automation System.
Tow Missile Module

Karachi / KANUPP
Pakistan's first nuclear energy plant (heavy-water, natural uranium, 137 MWe), Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP), became operational in 1972 under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Built with Canadian assistance, KANUPP is a unique variant of the CANDU reactor built by Canadian General Electric Co., using a fuel design only available from Canadian manufacturers. KANUPP is a heavy water reactor that uses natural uranium rather than enriched uranium as fuel.

Canadian technical support was provided for the first four years of operations. On 23 December 1976 Canada ended nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, cutting off supplies of nuclear fuel, heavy-water, spare parts, and technical information. Canada's decision was based on the failure of Pakistan to sign the NPT and accept safeguards on its entire nuclear program.

The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant is operated under international IAEA safeguards. Pakistan also operates a small heavy water production facility at KANUPP under IAEA safeguards. Fuel and some spare parts for this plant are manufactured and produced in Pakistan.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the KANUPP lifetime energy availability factor (as of the end of 1997) was 28.6%, one of the worst performing nuclear power plants in the world. For the period 1989-1996 KANUPP's capacity factor (the ratio of actual electrical production versus designed power) was only 34%. In fiscal 1993-94, KANUPP generated 497 GWH of power, peaking at 511 GWH in 1994-95, and dwindling to 223 GWH in 1996-97.

A separate materials storage facility is located at nearby Hawks Bay Depot, which is also under IAEA safeguards and its physical security is guarenteed by the government of Pakistan.


Kundian Fuel Fabrication Plant
Kundian Nuclear Complex I
Kundian is a reactor uranium fuel fabrication facility situated where SGN was to build a 50-100 tU/a spent fuel reprocessing plant (project started in 1974, halted in 1977), located near the Chashma reactor. With an annual production capacity of 24 tons, the facility has been manufacturing fuel for the KANUPP reactor since 1978. The Nuclear Fuel Plant is now known as KNC I - Kundian Nuclear Complex I. This site is not incorporated into IAEA safeguards, but like all related sites, its security is professed by the Pakistani government.

The Atomic Energy Minerals Center in Lahore includes a pilot-scale uranium mill. This site is not applicable to IAEA safeguards.

Lakki [Qabul Khel]
The Qabul Khel uranium mine is located near Lakki.

About 966 km from Karachi and more or less in the exact center of Pakistan lies the ancient city of Multan, the "City of Pirs and Shrines." Multan, a prosperous commercial and industrial center with bazaars, mosques, shrines and superbly designed tombs, is also a city of dust, summer heat and beggars. One of the Indian subcontinent's oldest cities, local industries include fertilizer, soap, and glass factories; foundries; cotton, woolen and silk textile mills; flour, sugar and oil mills, and a large thermal-power station. Large, irregular suburbs have grown outside the old walled town, and two satellite towns have been set up. In January 1972 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto initiated a program to develop nuclear weapons with a meeting of physicists and engineers at Multan.

Multan is the reported location of an IAEA un-safeguarded, but according to Pakistan this facility is physically secure, heavy water production facility, with an annual capacity of 13 metric tons, obtained from Belgium in 1980. The Multan facility, which is said to be co-located with or disguised as a fertilizer plant, could supply the Khushab reactor with heavy water.

The Pak Arab Fertilizer (Pvt). Ltd., headquartered on Khanewl Road, operates three fertilizer plants in Multan, which were constructed in 1962 and subsequently expanded in 1978. The larger plants has an annual output capacity of 140,000 and 117,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, while the smallest has an annual output capacity of 43,000 tons of Urea. In 1998 the government decided to privatize Pak Arab Fertilizer, which had been managed by the National Fertilizer Corporation (NFC). The Agriculture Engineering Institution was affiliated with Pak Arab Fertilizer.

According to published reports the Indian intelligence assessment is that Chinese-built M-11 missiles have been stored in a sub-depot near the Central Ammunition Depot at Sargodha on Kirana Hills near Lahore. The deployment is not complete, but when completed the missiles would be deployed at Gujranwala, Okara, Multan, Jhang and Dera Nawab Shah. Reportedly defense communication terminals have been set up in these places and 12 to 20 launchers have been acquired from China.

Rawalpindi / Nilhore
Pakistan's nuclear programs began in 1965 with a 5 MW research reactor at the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Technology (PINSTECH). Construction of this new research complex began in 1961. Designed by Edward D. Stone, the project won the 1966 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Professional Award for design excellence.

The Pakistan Institute of Science & Technology is responsible for fuel cycle R&D activities; including analytical chemistry, nuclear materials, metallurgy, fuel development, digital electronics, control instrumentation, and computational physics; basic research facilities are open to scientists/engineers from universities as well as research organizations.

The Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology uranium laboratories were focused in the mid-1970s on chemical processes and quality control procedures to fabricate uranium oxide pellets to be used to fuel the KANUPP reactor. Yellow cake has to be purified to reactor grade quality to remove trace impurities. A full scale refining plant was built for this purpose. And the refined uranium was fabricated into pure uranium oxide and pressed into small pellets which were sealed in zircaloy cladding tubes. PINSTECH developed techniques for producing high purity uranium from yellow cake, and converting it into oxide and pellets. PINSTECH facilities produced the uranium oxide, and developed the special welding techniques and other procedures required for large scale production operations. These uranium laboratories were later dismantled to make room for other facilities.

Facilities include:
PARR-1 - research reactor, designed for highly enriched (90% uranium) fuel, designed and built in collaboration with the United States, commissioned in 1965, was raised from 5 MWt to 9 MWt and converted to low-enriched (20%) fuel in 1990. China assisted in fuel fabrication for the rebuilt and upgraded PARR-1 research reactor. PARR-I may have been used clandestinely to produce tritium for advanced nuclear weapons.
PARR-2 - training reactor, Pool-type, light-water, HEU, 27-30 kWt, designed and built in collaboration with the Chinese Institute of Atomic Energy (Beijing), went critical in late 1989.
New Labs Reprocessing Plant - pilot-scale "hot cell" facility; design capacity up to 20 kg/y. non-radioactive startup, 1982.
The PARR I and PARR II research reactors are covered by IAEA safeguards.

Pakistan's weapons program was initially focused on plutonium that would have been derived from reactor fuel from a 137 MW(e) power reactor at Chasma. However, in 1978 France cancelled an agreement to build a reprocessing plant. Around this time Pakistan began construction of a small reprocessing facility called the "New Labs" at the PINSTECH complex with illicitly acquired French and Belgian technology. Completed around 1982, this facility remained idle since completion as Pakistan lacked unsafeguarded spent fuel.

Although the reactor at Khushab would be capable of producing 5 to 10 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium annually, the only known facility capable of processing the plutonium, located at PINSTECH, is too small to be able to handle such quantities of plutonium. As of early 1999 it was reported that the US government believed that Pakistan was taking steps to upgrade the PINSTECH facility. The equipment for the expansion, such as stainless steel piping, is dual-use and commonly used in commercial laboratories.

Sihala is the reported location of an un-safeguarded uranium enrichment plant with a cascade of 54 ultra-centrifuges. The precise location of this facility is somewhat ambiguous, as there are two populated places by this name in close proximity.

Wah Cantonment
Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF)
Uranium Conversion Facility
The Wah Cantonment Ordnance Complex consists of three nearby armament facilities in Wah (Pakistan Ordnance Factories - POF), Kamra (Air Weapon Complex - AWC), and Taxilia (Heavy Industries Taxila -HIT). The Taxilia facility is devoted to land combat systems, and is an unlikely candidate for nuclear weapons development work. The Air Weapon Complex at Kamra is devoted to air-to-surface munitions, among other activities, and would probably have at least some connection with the development of air-delivered nuclear weapons.

Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF)
The Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF), responsible for conventional weapons production, is located in Wah Cantonnement . The Pakistan Ordnance Factories is a complex of arms and ammunition manufacturing factories employing more than 40,000 personnel. POFs provided the weapons and ammunitions to the Pakistan Army and all their foreign clients. However, since POF can not produce the complete inventory of the Pakistani Army's armament needs, a high content of the Armed Force requirements are imported.

The Pakistan Ordnance Factories organization has fourteen large complexes at Wah:
Weapons Factory
Machine Gun Factory
Small Arms Ammunition Factory
Tank Ammunition Factory
Medium Artillery Ammunition Factory
Heavy Artillery Ammunition Factory
Brass Mill
Steel Foundry
Tungsten Carbide Factory
Tungsten Alloy Factory
Explosives Factory
Propellants Factory
Filling Factory
Clothing Factory for Uniforms
The two main subsidiaries -- Wah Industries Ltd., and Wah Nobel Ltd. -- were established to utilise spare capacities of Factories for commercial applications. Subsequently Hi-Tech Plastics Ltd., Wah Nobel Chemicals Ltd., Wah Nobel Detonators Ltd., and Attock Chemicals Ltd., were set up to meet the requirement of civil market.

POF produce approximately 70 major products for supply of Army, Navy and Air Force. The main products include automatic rifle; light medium and heavy machine guns, complete range of mortar and artillery ammunitions, aircraft ammunition and anti-aircraft ammunitions, tank ammunition and anti-tank ammunitions, bombs, grenades, land mines, pyrotechnics and signal stores etc.

Starting form raw materials, all other inputs needed for the manufacture of arms and ammunition such as brass, gilding metal clad steel, steel products carbide and tungsten alloy products, fuzes all types of gun, rocket and artillery propellants, and all types of explosives are produced in POF. During the 1990s there was a massive influx of new technologies which permitted an upgrade of production technology. This involves the use of modern equipment e.g. robotics, CNC machines, microprocessor - controlled processes, and automation. Major investments were made in CNC machines and computerisation of management and control systems. To augment the product and tool & gauge designing facilities, a modern CAD system was installed. Quality control, proof firing and inspection are carried out by the inspection and Technical Development Directorate of General Headquarters.