Pakistan’s Nuclear Program Chronology
2000 - Present
Construction on the second plutonium-production reactor at the Khushab military reactor site began sometime between March 2000-2002. On January 14, 2004, Iranian and Pakistani officials denied implications that Pakistan had aided Iran in the development of the Iranian nuclear program. Iran’s foreign minister claimed the entire program was developed indigenously. However, he did concede that foreign advisors (vaguely described as 3 Europeans and 2 South Asians) helped the country in deciding which items to purchase on the open market.
After 2 months of investigation, Pakistan concluded in January 2004 that the father of their nuclear program, Dr. A. Q. Khan, had illegally sold nuclear secrets and technologies to North Korea, Libya, and Iran. He was fired from his post as Special Advisor to the Prime Minister later that same month. Dr. Khan admitted to proliferating nuclear secrets and technologies in February 2004 and was formally charged with the alleged transfer of nuclear technology to other countries. He was pardoned by Prime Minister Musharraf later the same month for his great sacrifices to the nation of Pakistan; He was sequestered to his house after the fact, but Pakistani officials deny that he was under house-arrest. In response to the incident, a bill was drafted to control the export of technologies and materials relating to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons and their means of delivery. Proliferators, on conviction, would receive 14 years imprisonment, a 5 million rupee fine, or both.
In May 2004, China and Pakistan finalized an agreement that would have China aid in the construction of a second nuclear plant at Chashma. Chashma-II is estimated to be able to produce 300-megawatts and would be completed sometime after 2010. Work on the reactor began at the end of 2005. On June 6, 2004, India and Pakistan established a telephone hotline for discussing nuclear issues and alerting one another to potential nuclear threats or accidents. They also agreed to cease all nuclear testing. This marks the first test ban that both nations had agreed to follow. September 14, 2004 marked the passing of legislation tightening export controls on the export of weapons-making nuclear, biological, and missile-delivery technology. The bill included a 14 year prison sentence and up 85 thousand in fines to those convicted.
Pakistani and Iranian officials denied an Iranian opposition claim that Iran received plans for a nuclear bomb and HEU from a leading Pakistani scientist. The opposition claimed Iran received plans for the bomb in the mid-1990’s and the HEU in 2001, both deliveries orchestrated by Dr. A. Q. Khan. The Pakistani government reneged on this statement in 2005, acknowledging that Dr. Khan sold centrifuges used in fissile enrichment to Iran.
In March, 2005, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto made a statement claiming her country had a nuclear capability in 1988, but refrained from testing until 1998, when India performed the 5-weapon nuclear test series, “Operation Shakti”. And on April 7, 2005, President General Musharraf said the country would maintain its policy of “minimum credible/defensive deterrence”.
Talks regarding the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty on May 2, 2005 turned sour as Pakistan refused to join the treaty as a non-nuclear state. A Pakistani spokesman cited the need for nuclear weapons as an effective, credible deterrent, as well as maintaining the power balance in the region. On July 15, 2005, Pakistan announced its plans to construct 13 new nuclear reactors with-in 25 years, or by 2030. Each reactor is planned to have a capacity of 600-700 megawatts and will aim to meet Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission’s (PAEC) goal of generating 8800 megawatts of power to meet growing industrial needs.
In August 2005, President Musharraf confirmed that Dr. A. Q. Khan passed nuclear centrifuges and their designs to North Korea. He indicated that North Korea was only aiding in the enrichment of uranium, and any nuclear weapon developments were accomplished solely by the North Koreans. The following month, Pakistani officials disclosed that Pakistan had shared its information on the North Korean Nuclear Program with South Korea, that it had severed ties with the North Korean Nuclear Program, and that it was in favor of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Sometime in mid-2006, construction on Pakistan’s third plutonium-production reactor at the Khushab military reactor site began. Satellite images imply that the reactor is a duplicate of the second reactor built at the site and would have a power output of 70-130 MWT. On March 31, 2006, Pakistan and France conducted talks regarding cooperation on a civil nuclear reactor. France had concluded a similar deal with India in February of the same year. India and Pakistan began another round of nuclear talks on 25 April 2006. The nations would exchange fresh ideas on how to reduce or eliminate the risk of an accidental nuclear or conventional attack. These talks are a continuation of discussions that began in 2004 and led to the establishment of a designated nuclear hotline and a test ban treaty between the two countries. The talks also come in the wake of an American deal with India that would allow India to purchase civilian nuclear technology, ignoring its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The investigation and case against Dr. A. Q. Khan was concluded and closed on May 27, 2006, according to Pakistani officials. All important information had been gathered and shared with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United States. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), in a statement before Congress, said that the information provided by Pakistan looked to be incomplete and the investigation was far from over.
Pakistan issued a statement on 21 September 2006 saying that Pakistan, as a recognized nuclear power, should not be excluded from acquiring civil nuclear technology. The Foreign Minister said that denying the technology to Pakistan was “incomprehensible”, and that Pakistan would get civil nuclear technology at “any cost”; they have the resources and the infrastructure necessary to for the technology, as well as giving the assurance that the technology would not fall into the wrong hands.
On February 21, 2007, Pakistan and India signed a pact on nuclear weapons security and pledged their renewed commitment to the peace process. The pact was signed at the end of talks between the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers and aims at cutting the risks of a nuclear arms accident in the region. It also included confidence-building measures related to each nations nuclear arsenal.
As of September 2008, eight mechanical draft cooling towers had been constructed at the Khushab-II plutonium-production reactor. At such a rate, the reactor would be completed in relatively short order.
The US State Department sought the accreditation of an official with the American Embassy with the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), the entity that controls Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, on April 18, 2008. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan denied the request, telling reporters that the weapons are a national asset and no foreign official would be given access to said assets.
On May 29, 2008, a day after the ten year anniversary of Pakistan’s first nuclear test and four years after Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan’s public confession of nuclear proliferation, Khan issued a statement claiming the allegations against him were false and then-President Musharraf was pressured into going after him by the United States. He declined to discuss his public confession, claiming that to do so could harm Pakistan’s interests; He did blame Musharraf’s policies for the lack of economic and political growth, as well as the rise in extremism in Pakistan. Khan had been under house-arrest for the last four years and is suffering from prostate cancer.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, on October 18, 2008, announced that China would aid the country in the construction of two more civil nuclear reactors. Both reactors would be situated at the Chashma site (Chashma-III, Chashma-IV), and provide an additional 680 megawatts of electricity to bolster Pakistan’s industry and economy. Work on Chashma-II was already underway and is expected to be completed in 2011.
The construction of the Khushab-III plutonium-production reactor at Pakistan’s Khushab military reactor site was believed to completed as of January 2009. It was unknown as to where it had gone critical or not at that point in time (it was assumed not to have).
On February 6, 2009, the Islamabad High Court declared Dr. A. Q. Khan a free citizen and ended his house arrest, which had lasted for 5 years. He was allowed free movement within the country and was still subject to enhanced security measures. The decision went against the American stance on Khan; he is still believed to be a dangerous man and would continue nuclear proliferation if given the opportunity.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari transferred control of the nations nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Gilani on 28 November 2009. The shifting of powers came at the same time as the lifting of the Presidential-immunity law, set in place by then-President Musharraf, that has protected President Zardari from being investigated on charges of corruption.
Steam was seen rising from the cooling towers of Khushab-II on December 31, 2009. This would indicate that the reactor was in some stage of initialization. On February 20, 2010, Prime Minister Gilani visited Khushab-II to congratulate the engineers for aiding in the rebuilding of Pakistan’s economy and infrastructure. His visit seems to indicate that the reactor had gone critical and was on-line at that point.
Khushab-III was nearing completion in 2010. Satellite photos taken on September 9, 2010 showed the plant in a near-finished state of construction. Signs of construction of a fourth plutonium-producing reactor at the Khushab military reactor site (Khushab-IV) were seen on January 15, 2011.
In light of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima reactor earlier in the month, China still plans to sell two more reactors (Chashma-III, Chashma-IV) to Pakistan. Though the reactors are nearly 30-years out of date, neither China nor Pakistan have any worries about the safety of the plants. Furthermore, Pakistan asked the IAEA to safeguard the Chashma project, to which the Agency agreed.
Significant progress in the construction of Khushab-IV had been made as of April 20, 2011.
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