Washington: Pakistan is going ahead with the construction of its third heavy nuclear reactor at the Khushab site at a much faster pace, a Washington-based think tank has said.
"Construction of the third reactor has progressed more quickly than the second reactor. This is evident when comparing the two reactors at similar points in their construction," said Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a private US group which is critical of nuclear weapons.
From the time of initial clearing and excavation for the second reactor, it took at least six years before its cooling towers appeared complete in commercial satellite imagery.
In contrast, it took Pakistan less than fives years from when initial excavation is visible in commercial satellite imagery until the third reactor`s cooling towers appear finished, he said.
The latest satellite image of the site obtained by ISIS in September shows construction of the third heavy water reactor progressing, with a row of mechanical draft cooling towers that appears finished.
The previous available image from December 31, 2009 on Google Earth shows the row of cooling towers for the third reactor under construction.
In the same photo, ISIS noted steam being emitted from the cooling towers of the second Khushab reactor, indicating that it was at some stage of initial operation.
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.
"These reactors support Pakistan`s nuclear weapons programme," Brannan said.