Indian nuclear bomb making capacity is far beyond than western estimates: Researchers

(By Ejaz Shah)

ISLAMABAD Oct 23 (APP): New ground breaking research carried out by nuclear experts has disclosed that India can produce a maximum of 356 to 492 nuclear weapons, proving that the actual Indian nuclear bomb making capacity is far greater than most current western assessments.

This is the crux of the research carried out by four nuclear researchers in a book “Indian Unsafe guarded Nuclear Program” co authored by Adeela Azam, Ahmad Khan, Syed Muhammad Ali and Sameer Ali Khan.

“The research study reveals that India has sufficient material and technical capacity to make up to 356 to 492 nuclear bombs. This work is in contrast to various other earlier studies which have taken a much more modest view of the Indian nuclear bomb making potential,” said the authors, interacting with this scribe while divulging details about their startling study.

The findings of the study also provide food for thought to the member States of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that they must consider the large and swiftly expanding Indian nuclear bomb making capacity while dealing with New Delhi’s NSG membership case and ensure that the Indian membership of this export control arrangement does not, in any way, help India further expand and accelerate its nuclear weapons program.

The book published by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI), dilates in threadbare upon the topics like, “Indian Nuclear Energy Needs and Uranium Reserves, Indian Uranium Enrichment Capacity and Future Requirement, Indian Unsafe guarded Nuclear Reactor Program and Indian Nuclear Reprocessing Program.”

Findings of this book are based on the critical review of hundreds of Indian documents, research studies, budgetary estimates, technical assessments, statements and research by senior Indian nuclear scientists and credible research of leading international nuclear experts, spanning more than six decades.

It also unveils the true size, extent and capabilities of the different aspects of the complex Indian nuclear program, which New Delhi has kept outside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and proves that it is the largest and oldest unsafe guarded nuclear program in the entire developing world and among all the States not party to the Nuclear Non proliferation Treaty.

Adeela Azam, Visiting Fellow ISSI, has argued that India’s own mines have sufficient uranium reserves and capacity to run New Delhi’s existing reactors for more than a century. India has produced nuclear fuel beyond the current requirements of its Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors.

Ahmad Khan, Visiting Fellow ISSI, is of the view that India, despite starting its uranium enrichment program much later than Pakistan, has overtaken Islamabad in terms of its total known uranium enrichment capacity.

“Although the world’s spotlight continues to be on the Iranian nuclear program, in reality the Indian uranium enrichment program is perhaps the fastest growing in the World and provides New Delhi with ample Uranium enrichment capacity to not only run nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines but also to build nuclear and thermonuclear weapons,” he said.

Syed Muhammad Ali, Senior Research Fellow Center for International Strategic Studies, offers a new assessment of how many nuclear bombs India can actually make, based on the removal of weapon grade and reactor grade plutonium from its nuclear reactors, kept outside IAEA safeguards. Based on its current unsafe guarded nuclear reactor capacity,

India can make up to 492 plutonium based nuclear weapons.

“India acquired its nuclear bomb making capacity almost two decades before Pakistan, has consistently enlarged it, making New Delhi’s estimated stocks of weapon useable nuclear materials, the largest in the entire developing world and the Non NPT states,” he added.

Sameer Ali Khan, Visiting Fellow ISSI, extensive research on Indian reprocessing facilities reveals that New Delh’s large reactor grade plutonium stockpile is weapon useable and it has kept almost its entire known reprocessing capacity outside IAEA safeguards, which is available for military use.

In addition, India is keeping its Fast Breeder reactor program outside the IAEA safeguard for potential military use. Operating at 80% of their known capacities, Indian reprocessing plants could have separated more than one ton of weapon grade plutonium, sufficient for approximately 96 to 294 nuclear warheads. Moreover, India might have separated over 9 to 12 tons of additional reactor grade plutonium, Sameer said.

Alternatively, assuming a more conservative efficiency of the Indian reprocessing plants of 50% capacity, New Delhi could have separated over 700 kgs of weapon grade plutonium, sufficient for building 126 to 189 nuclear weapons besides separating over 5 to 7 tons of reactor grade plutonium, he said.

This additional 5 to 12 tons stock of reactor grade plutonium is potentially weapon usable and, if not used in Fast Breeder Reactors, could support an additional arsenal of 833 to 3000 reactor grade plutonium based nuclear weapons besides those based on weapons grade plutonium. Even if this unsafe guarded reactor grade plutonium stocks are used to fuel Indian Fast Breeder Reactors, the ultimate output (weapons grade plutonium) will find its only utility in nuclear weapons. This estimate does not mean that the estimates presented in earlier chapters are inconsistent with these estimates or incorrect.

The difference in these estimates is because each chapter has looked at the capacities of Indian nuclear facilities rather than actual production, he added.