‘Politically unstable’ Pakistan has world's fastest-growing nuclear stockpile: Experts

Washington, July 7ANI): 'Politically unstable' Pakistan has the world's fastest-growing nuclear stockpile, which could potentially reach 150-200 warheads in a decade, two top American scientists have said.

Pakistan is in the process of "building two new plutonium production reactors and a new reprocessing facility to fabricate more nuclear weapons fuel," and is also developing new delivery systems, Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in Washington, and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS, wrote in a report titled "Pakistan's nuclear forces, 2011."

"Despite its political instability, Pakistan continues to steadily expand its nuclear capabilities and competencies; in fact, it has the world's fastest-growing nuclear stockpile," said the report published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

"Enhancements to Pakistan's nuclear forces include a new nuclear-capable medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), the development of two new nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missiles, and the development of two new nuclear-capable cruise missiles," it added.

The report estimated that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons stockpile of 90-110 nuclear warheads, an increase from the estimated 70-90 warheads in 2009 (Norris and Kristensen, 2009).

The US Defense Intelligence Agency had projected in 1999 that Pakistan would have 60-80 warheads by 2020, but the country appears to have reached that level in 2006 or 2007, more than a decade ahead of predictions, the experts noted.

"With four new delivery systems and two plutonium production reactors under development, the rate of Pakistan's stockpile growth may even increase over the next 10 years," they warned, estimating that if its present rate of expansion continues, Pakistan's nuclear weapons stockpile could potentially reach 150-200 warheads over the next 10 years.

The Pakistan Government has not defined the number and type of nuclear weapons that its minimum deterrent requires, the report said, adding that however, Pakistan's pace of nuclear modernization and its development of several short-range delivery systems indicates that its "nuclear posture has entered an important new phase and that a public explanation is overdue."

The report also said that exactly how Pakistan safeguards its nuclear weapons, and what type of "use-control" features its weapons have, is unclear.

"The revelation that Osama bin Laden had hidden for years in Abbottabad, Pakistan, only 53 kilometers (km) northeast of Islamabad-and only 16 km from a large military weapons depot with underground facilities-raised new questions about the security and control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons," it said.

"Outside Pakistan, observers wondered if the nuclear arsenal was secure from potential terrorist theft; inside Pakistan, observers wondered whether the arsenal was safe from a possible US or Indian incursion," it added.

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