Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy

By Stephen E. Atkins | Go to book overview

P

Pakistani Nuclear Program

The Pakistani nuclear program is a product of the success of India in building a nuclear weapons capability. As news reached Pakistan that India was deeply into atomic energy development, the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established by statutory law in 1955. Almost as soon as Prime Minister Ali Bhutto took office in 1971 he negotiated a contract with France for a reprocessing plant as the first step toward Pakistan's possessing nuclear weapons. In 1972, Pakistan opened its first nuclear power station, the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant. When India detonated an atomic device in 1974, the Pakistani government decided to give higher priority to building a nuclear weapons system to counteract India's. A French company had been constructing an irradiated fuel reprocessing plant in Pakistan in 1976 until international pressure was placed on both the French and the Pakistanis to suspend further construction. Consequently, in 1978 the French canceled the 1976 reprocessing plant deal. This plant near Islamabad was finally finished by the Pakistanis. Pakistani scientists traveled around the world gathering as much information on nuclear weapons systems as possible to fill the void of the loss of French contacts. According to the head of the Pakistani nuclear program, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan had the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons in 1984. Since Pakistan is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, there are no safeguard inspections of Pakistani nuclear facilities to check on the processing of nuclear fuels except for two sites mandated by agreements from Canada and the United States. In 1985, Pakistan began construction of a 300-megawatt nuclear power station at Chashma in Punjab province with technology supplied by China. Pakistan's acquisition of a uranium conversion plant from Germany in a secret deal with a German businessman

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