This article incorrectly described the center of India's missile research as roughly 1,000 miles southwest of Pakistan's nuclear complex at Khushab. The research center is about 1,000 miles southeast of Khushab.
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Nuclear Aims By Pakistan, India Prompt U.S. Concern
Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told senators days before his retirement in March that "Pakistan continues to develop its nuclear infrastructure, expand nuclear weapons stockpiles, and seek more advanced warheads and delivery systems." He added that although Pakistan has "taken important steps to safeguard its nuclear weapons . . . vulnerabilities still exist."
Although Maples did not offer details of the expansion, other experts said he was referring to the expected completion next year of Pakistan's second heavy-water reactor at its Khushab nuclear complex 100 miles southwest of Islamabad, which will produce new spent nuclear fuel containing plutonium for use in nuclear arms.
"When Khushab is done, they'll be able to make a significant number of new bombs," Mowatt-Larssen said. In contrast, "it took them roughly 10 years to double the number of nuclear weapons from roughly 50 to 100." A third heavy-water reactor is also under construction at Khushab, according to David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.
Before it can be used in weaponry, the plutonium must first be separated from the fuel rods at a highly guarded nuclear facility near Rawalpindi, about 100 miles northeast of Khushab. Satellite images published by Albright's institute show a substantial expansion occurred at the complex between 2002 and 2006, reflecting a long-standing Pakistani desire to replace weapons fueled by enriched uranium with plutonium-based weapons.
Pakistani officials dismiss suggestions that the building represents an acceleration in South Asia's arms race. "If two are sufficient, why build 10?" asked Brig. Gen. Nazir Ahmed Butt, defense attache in Pakistan's embassy in Washington. "We cannot match warhead for warhead. We're not in a numbers game. People should not take a technological upgrade for an expansion."
Details of precautions surrounding Pakistani nuclear shipments are closely held. Abdul Mannan, director of transport and waste safety for Pakistan's nuclear regulatory authority, said in a 2007 presentation to the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington that Pakistani safeguards are "enough to deter and delay a terrorist attack, and any malicious diversion would be protected in early stages." But Mannan also said the government needed to upgrade its security measures, and warned that "a country like Pakistan is not well equipped" to contain radioactive fallout from an attack on a nuclear shipment.
U.S. officials have said they accept Pakistan's assurances that its nuclear stockpile is adequately safeguarded, but intelligence officials have acknowledged contingency plans to dispatch American troops to protect or remove any weapons at imminent risk.
Proximity to Taliban
While Pakistan's nuclear program has lately attracted the most worry, because of the close proximity to the capital of Taliban insurgents, many U.S. experts say that it should not be considered in isolation from India's own nuclear expansion.
Some experts say that a civil nuclear cooperation agreement that Bush signed with India in October benefits the country's weapons programs, because it sanctions India's import of uranium and allows the military to draw on enriched uranium produced by eight reactors that might otherwise be needed for civil power. In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency last July, Pakistan's ambassador in Vienna warned that the deal would increase "the chances of a nuclear arms race on the sub-continent."
Ken Luongo, a former senior adviser on nonproliferation at the Energy Department who recently returned from meetings with Pakistani officials, said the deal exacerbated Pakistan's fears of losing a technological race; others say that, at the least, it provided a rationalization to keep going.
Feroz Hassan Khan, a retired Pakistani general in charge of arms control, said Pakistan perceives a real risk of a preemptive strike by India. Because of Indian superiority in conventional forces, "Pakistan is compelled to rely more heavily on nuclear weapons to counter the threat," Khan said. "It would be highly foolish not to produce more and better weapons."
Correspondent Rama Lakshmi in New Delhi and staff writer Karen DeYoung and staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.