March 2000

CBS national security correspondent David Martin on Pakistan and the bomb

CBS News,16 March 2000

[Posted 23/03/2000]

CBS news has learned that recent air samples prove the Pakistanis have begun reprocessing the fuel rods from a reactor into weapons grade plutonium.

The samples, taken secretly in Pakistan, contain traces of a gas called krypton 85 which to scientists is a dead give away that plutonium is being reprocessed.

That fact that they're reprocessing is very significant. That clearly says that the purpose of this is to make nuclear weapons. U.S. Intelligence estimates Pakistan already has 30 to 50 nuclear bombs made of uranium. Making plutonium weapons, which are smaller and more powerful, accelerates the nuclear arms race with India. The smaller the weapon, the easier it is to deliver both by aircraft and by missile. A lightweight plutonium bomb could be put on top of the mobile m-11 missiles they've obtained from the Chinese.

The Chinese-made missile can be transported on the back of a truck. When not in the field they're parked in these garages at a Pakistani air base, making a tempting target for India. There would d be a lot of incentive for India to try and destroy all of those missiles while they're still on the base rather than waiting for them to disperse into the field.

U.S. Intelligence estimates that reprocessing fuel from this reactor will give the Pakistanis enough plutonium to build two nuclear weapons a year.

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