Days after Osama raid, Pak races to complete Khushab N-plant

A satellite imagery exposed the new nuclear facility in Khushab. The nuclear facility could become active as soon as 2013, reports said.

Last Updated: May 18, 2011, 00:44 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Days after US forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan`s north western city of Abbotabad, it is barrelling ahead with the construction of nuclear power plant, reports said.

The South Asian country has aggressively accelerated its effort to build its fourth heavy nuclear reactor at the Khushab nuclear site, about 140 miles south of Islamabad.

Reports suggested that Pakistan is expanding the plutonium-producing reactor at a faster rate than any other country in the world.

A satellite imagery exposes the new nuclear facility in Khushab.

The new nuclear facility could become active as soon as 2013, reports said.

“The build-up is remarkable,” says a strategic expert. Another strategic observer quipped, "There`s no question, it`s the fastest-growing programme in the world.”

The move is extremely dangerous because Pakistan is also stockpiling fissile material, or bomb fuel.
Experts say, unlike Iran, which has yet to produce highly enriched uranium, or North Korea, which has produced plutonium but still lacks any real weapons capability, Pakistan is significantly ramping up its nuclear-weapons programme.

Pakistan announced the operation of its first heavy reactor at Khushab in 1998. Pakistan began building the second heavy reactor here between 2000 and 2002. It began building the third reactor during 2006.

It is said that the construction of the third reactor at Khushab had proceeded more quickly than the second plant. The fourth reactor will be made quicker than the third one, observers say.

Institute for Science and International Security called on Washington to demand that Islamabad should immediately stop building additional reactors at the installation.

What worries the world leaders including that of India is the “loose nukes” could fall into the hands of the terrorists. There’s no transparency on how the fissile material is being handled by Pakistan, a strategic expert said. Pakistan is known as the safe haven for the terrorists and that heightens the concerns.

Islamabad`s nuclear-weapons programme has raised alarm in South Asian countries particularly India, which Pakistan sees as its long-time rival.
Though, there was no official reaction from Islamabad, Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb said, the build-up is a response to the “threat” from India.

Khan complained that Pakistan’s nuclear programme has always been a target for Western propaganda and ‘false accusations’.

For now, the White House appears to have made a tacit trade-off and hence declined to comment. But, it is said that the Obama administration is concerned about the growing nuclear capacity of Pakistan.

A high-ranking congressional source said that Islamabad possesses enough weapon-usable material to build more than 100 warheads and could have an annual production rate of between eight to 20 bombs.

A secret US raid into Pakistan earlier this month killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

US has been supplying aid to Pakistan, which is meant officially “to fight against terrorism”. But, it is also a known fact that Pakistan uses that aid for financing terrorism.

US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has recently introduced a legislation in the House of Representatives to stop American aid to Pakistan, saying the killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad has made it clear that Islamabad concealed, protected and enabled terrorists for many years.