US think tank warns Pak close to producing atom bombs

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Vienna, Sept 19 : A leading US think tank has warned that Pakistan could soon acquire capability of producing atom bombs, as it was close to completing a second plutonium-producing reactor, and all set to build a third.

These reactors could increase its ability to make atomic bombs, which, in turn could increase tensions between India and Pakistan, said the think tank.

The report said that India could "easily match" Pakistan's moves given its own ability to churn out plutonium in heavy water reactors and a fast-breeder reactor under construction.

"The wider implication is that there is a real risk this will exacerbate an India-Pakistan nuclear arms race and increase tensions more broadly between the two," the Daily Times quoted the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) as saying in a report.

The report is based on commercial satellite images taken two weeks ago in February and May showing construction of the second and third Khushab complexes. The 10-page report estimated the reactors would run on power of "about 100-megawatts or more", which could enable the two combined to yield plutonium for 8-10 atomic bombs a year.

A row of cooling towers indicated the second reactor was close to completion and could be ready to operate in a year's time, according to the 10-page report.

It said: "Once completed, these reactors will increase several-fold Pakistan's ability to make weapons-grade plutonium (fuel). When finished...will allow a significant increase in the quantity and quality of Pakistan's nuclear weapons."

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