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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Press Conference

(Dr. R. Chidambaram (RC), Chairman, AEC & Secretary, DAE; Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (K), Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri and Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development; Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Director, BARC; Dr. K. Santhanam, Chief Advisor (Technologies), DRDO)

Q: How near is the thermonuclear device to a hydrogen bomb? What was the material used for the fission trigger?

A: (RC) - The hydrogen bomb is the popular term. In a hydrogen bomb there is a fission trigger and separately there is also thermonuclear material which requires appropriate configuring. It is therefore a two-stage device. The secondary stage provides the major yield. The range can go quite high but we were limited in the total yield by the damage it may cause to habitations nearby. We are not revealing the materials used.

Q: Do you have a strategic command system?

A: (K) - Please explain the meaning of command. We have here a partnership. The culmination of that partnership is in weaponisation. As for command and control systems, we have different forms presently, and are moving towards that.

Q: Is India holding nuclear weapons?

A: (K) - PM has said India is a NWS. Please refer to Article 9 of NPT.

Q: We hear that Shakti 1 is not a thermonuclear device but a boosted fission device?

A: (RC) - As I said earlier, a thermonuclear device has two stages a fission trigger and a secondary stage. This was a thermonuclear device as it had two stages.

Q: When were you told to go ahead with the tests?

A: (K) - T minus 30 days.

Q: Are we now moving towards subcritical, hydronuclear, hydrodynamic and computer simulation, including laser fusion techniques such as those in the National Ignition Facility in the U.S.?

A: (RC) - The yield depends on the extent of supercriticality; the more the supercriticality, the more the yield. It is below critical if k<1. We are aware of the U.S. programs for Inertial Confinement Fusion where you hit a pellet with laser beams and simulate some kinds of phenomenon. We have done what we have done.

Q: (NYT - John Burns) - Does India have a deliverable weapons system right now?

A: (K) - I refer to the Joint Press Release of DRDO & DAE. This is a National Mission. PM has said that India is a NWS.

Q: Does India need further underground tests or will the completion of this series achieve this?

A: (RC) - May I read out the Press Statement of May 13. This completes the planned series of underground tests.

Q: There has been a Pakistani explosion?

A: (K) - As of when we came for this Press conference, it was not known to us. What we have done is for India's national security.

Q: Can you confirm that it is a thermonuclear and not a boosted fission test?

A: (RC) - As I said earlier, a thermonuclear weapon has two stages, a fission trigger and a secondary stage. A boosted fission device is not a hydrogen bomb. A hydrogen bomb must be two-part.

Q: We hear that you now going to separate the civil and military aspects of the programme with DRDO taking care of the military part and secondly are you now going to put your civilian reactors under safeguards?

A: (K) - I do not know what you are talking about. We co-exist and co-operate. We do not have to take over each other's tasks.

A: (RC) - No.

Q: Will sanctions affect BARC/DRDO?

A: (K) - Technologically, we have faced sanctions for a long time. When we were refused the supercomputer, we went ahead and made our own. In the space programme, when we were refused cryogenic engines, we have gone ahead and made our own which should be ready next year. No one can trouble us technologically. There is a challenge to be met and we rise to the occasion.

A: (RC) - I would just like to add - for 20 odd years we have been facing technology control regimes. These may slow us down, but they also increase our self reliance. Our nuclear programme today is almost 100% indigenous.

Q: What depth were the shafts?

A: (RC) - We are not revealing this.

Q: How far is the nearest village?

A: (RC) - A little over 5 km. away - Khetolai. Our total yield was set by this.

A: (K) - The hydrogen bomb criteria was determined based on the location of this village.

Q: So you can carry out tests with greater capacity?

A: (RC) - Yes.

Q: Where is India in nuclear weapons technology today?

A: (K) - The 3 tests on May 11, the hydrogen bomb, the fission device and sub-kiloton device, as well as the two subsequent sub-kiloton device have proved clearly that our nuclear weapons technology has achieved a stage of self reliance. If there is a demand for it, we shall do it.

Q: What was the logic behind simultaneous detonation?

A: (RC) - The two devices, the thermonuclear and fission device were one km apart. We needed to make sure that the detonation of one did not cause damage to the other, since the stock wave has a time travel in milliseconds. So went in for simultaneous detonation. It was also simpler - use one button to blow three. We had close in seismic measurements and accelerometer data also.

Q: What fraction of the hydrogen bomb energy is due to the thermonuclear part? What was the cost of the tests and weaponisation?

A: (K) - As regards cost, this does not amount to huge amounts. These costs were met from the budgets of our respective departments, over and above what we apportion for regular activities.

A: (RC) - As regards what fraction - the total was 45 kT. The fission trigger was equivalent to that of the fission device.

Q: Can these nuclear warheads be fitted on Prithvi and Agni?

A: (K) - The missiles we have can carry any type of warhead, conventional or nuclear, depending on the weight, size and environmental specifications. The missiles are only carriers, they can even carry flowers.

Q: Are you going in for miniaturisation of warheads?

A: (K) - As I said, weaponisation is dependent on size, weight, performance characteristics and environmental conditions.

Q: General Sunderji and Shri K. Subrahmanyam have said we need 100 warheads. Do you agree? When willyou begin production?

A: (K) - The numbers stated vary from expert to expert. No comment.

Q: The U.S. has stockpiled nuclear devices. What is the critical number for India?

A: (K) - I have studied the issue of proliferation of nuclear weapons. The U.S. has some 10,000 warheads. Nuclear warheads are used for political and commercial purposes. In our area we have seen proliferation for commercial interests. Our developments have nothing to do with this. Our development is for our national security.

Q: Was the U.S surveillance system deliberately fooled by you or was it accidental?

A: (K) - No comment. We have done this job in the required way.

Q: Do we have the technology to gauge the size and power of Pakistan's bomb?

A: (RC) - Before or after they detonate? Of course we have methods of detecting their tests using teleseismometers. I have no idea of their programme. I have never been to Pakistan. In our tests the waveforms recorded have been confused because the detonations were simultaneous. In fact the American IDC has recorded our tests as an earthquake.

Q: Is the Agni project now to be further developed?

A: (K) - If needed, we can make it in the numbers required. The ranges can be adjusted, if needed for higher ranges.

Q: Do we require more tests?

A: (RC) - I think I will refer you to our Press Statement.

Q: How many seismometers were used and what is our capability to distinguish background noise made from 3 simultaneous tests?

A: (K) - We will not disclose this.

A: (RC) - When we record a seismic signal there is background noise and cultural noise. There is also a limit to detection. In the CTBT this is 1 kT. We have software to distinguish between the waveforms of earthquakes and those of explosions - but may lose by a factor of 2 regarding intensity or yield.

Q: There is speculation that the same site as was prepared for the 1995 tests was used this time. Is this the case?

A: (RC) - At that time I said I do not respond to reactions of irresponsible reports in the media. I stand by this.

Q: Was it prepared afresh from scratch?

A: (RC) - No comment.

Q: After 1974, why has there been a delay of 24 years?

A: No comment.

Q: From your 5 tests you have collected data. Can development now be done within the ambit of the CTBT?

A: (RC) - Good question. But no comment.

Q: Why was testing done in May? Why always May?

A: No particular reason.

Q: What is the commonality to 1974 and 1998? What next?

A: (RC) - This is the next milestone. As appropriate, we'll tell you.

Q: Is there any change contemplated in the Agni - from solid-liquid to all solid? What is to be the configuration for extended range?

A: (K) - Range can be modified.

Q: How long have scientists been ready?

A: (RC) - Since 1974 we have had the knowledge. The technology and knowledge has been undergoing improvements and refinements.

Q: Did you specifically prepare the tests so that they cannot be detected?

A: (RC) - No.

Q: But not even by the CIA?

A: (RC) - You must ask the CIA.

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