Jeffrey LewisPakistani Pu Reactor and Reprocessing

NRDC’s Tom Cochran has released a pretty compelling rebuttal of David Albright’s estimate of the capacity of Pakistan’s new plutonium production reactor.

Albright, writing with Paul Brannan, estimated the capacity of the new reactor in excess of 1000 MW; NSC Spokesman Frederick Jones called the estimate “wrong” and other officials told Bill Broad and David Sanger that the new reactor is about the same size as Pakistan’s existing 40-50 MW reactor at Khushab.

Cochran’s argument boils down to three claims:

1. The large rings that Albright and Brannan identified are concrete shielding that will hold the reactor vessel or calandria, which itself would be too thin to be visible in an image of this resolution,
2. Calandrias are not constructed on-site (and would not, therefore, appear in the image) due to high manufactuing requirements, and
3. We’ll know the MW for sure when Pakistan constructs the cooling towers.

The paper, of course, is more subtle. I am also going to try and post Tom’s sources for review. Here is one: Hurst, D. C., and A. G. Ward. “Canadian Research Reactors,” in Progress in Nuclear Energy, Series II, Reactors, vol. I. R. A. Charpie, D. J. Hughes, D. J. Littler, and M. Trocheris, eds. (London: Pergamon Press, 1956) pp. 1-48.

This looks like the classic Washington leak pattern: Someone is unhappy with the internal process, and appeals to media (this time, working though a respected NGO). (See also “Pak Bomb Factory,”, July 27, 2006).

[Late Update: Albright and Brannan have an updated rebuttal.]

And, on the subject of Pakistan’s plutonium program—Jack Boureston has an outstanding review of Pakistan’s plutonium capabilities, which includes a substantial amount of information about Pakistan’s reprocessing facility near Rawalpindi.

In talking with Jack about the article, I’ve managed to locate the PINSTECH facility in GoogleEarth, as well as the reprocessing facility which the State Department described as “a still larger, seperately secured facility… near the main [PINSTECH] building.”

Click the pic …


  1. Mark Hibbs (History)

    I briefly discussed this issue with senior Pakistan government representatives in Vienna last week. Watch our pages for a little item…