Analysis of IKONOS Imagery of the Plutonium Production Reactor at Khushab, Pakistan
March 16, 2000
- Pakistan announced the operation of the reactor in April of 1998, just prior to its nuclear weapons tests. For years, Pakistan denied the existence of this reactor.**
- Preliminary ISIS thermal analysis using Landsat-7 imagery from July 1999 was inconclusive in establishing the operational status of the reactor.
- The reactor is believed to have a capacity of about 50 megawatts-thermal (MWth), use natural uranium fuel, and be heavy water (D2O) moderated and cooled. This reactor requires an estimated 40 tonnes* of heavy water.
- The reactor is estimated to be able to produce enough plutonium for a few nuclear weapons a year.
- The size of the cooling towers indicates that they are capable of dissipating 50-100 megawatts of heat.
- There is no indication of electrical power production at the site.
- There is no reprocessing facility at the Khushab site.
- Before the reactor could operate, Pakistan needed a source of unsafeguarded heavy water. The location of Pakistan's heavy water production plant was publicly unknown until now. Although the reactor may have had other sources of heavy water, this heavy water plant is large enough to have met the reactor's requirements.