Washington: Pakistan is half way through the construction of its fourth nuclear reactor at Khushab, which will give it capability to speed up plutonium manufacturing, latest US satellite imagery has revealed.
On completion, the reactor would enable Islamabad to build large number of smaller nuclear warheads, Washington-based eminent think-tank Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said.
Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme is considered to be among the fastest growing in the world by Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute, with the estimates of Islamabad possessing 90-110 nuclear warheads.
Releasing the latest satellite imageries, ISIS said construction of the fourth Khushab reactor and supporting buildings is progressing with the reactor building about halfway to completion.
Based on the available imagery ISIS estimates that the construction of the fourth reactor is proceeding about 30 per cent faster than construction on reactor three and that major external work could be complete within fifteen months.
The reactor, located 200 kilometers south of Islamabad, is the latest addition to the Khushab nuclear site and is dedicated to the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.
In addition to the fourth reactor, the Khushab site includes two reactors similar in shape to the fourth one, a heavy water production plant, and an original, nominal 50 megawatt-thermal heavy water reactor completed in 1998.
"This increase in plutonium production represents a growing nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan," it said, adding in order to avoid a dangerous escalation, the US and the world community should increase efforts to convince Pakistan to stop blocking negotiations of the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament.