19 September 2016

** Satellite Imagery Indicates That Pakistan Is Building a Uranium Enrichment Facility

Karl Dewey and Charlie Cartwright 

Airbus Defence and Space imagery showing the progress of construction at the possible new uranium enrichment complex near Kahuta. Source: CNES 2015. Distribution Airbus DS/2016 IHS 

Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 28 September 2015 and on 18 April 2016 shows new construction at Pakistan’s Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) site in Kahuta that is consistent with that of a uranium enrichment facility. 

The area is approximately 1.2 ha in size and is located within the secure area of the KRL in the southwestern part of the complex, which is situated in Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab Province. 

Roughly rectangular in shape and approximately 140 x 80 m, the new structure is surrounded by scrubland and trees that provide an additional measure of security on the ground. 

In addition to being located near to the KRL, a known centrifuge facility, the new building shares similarities with known centrifuge facility structures built by the URENCO enrichment consortium at Capenhurst (in the UK), Almelo (in the Netherlands), and Gronau (in Germany). This may be more than coincidence as Abdul Qadeer Khan, considered by many to be the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, worked at URENCO before stealing centrifuge designs and returning to Pakistan to work on the country’s centrifuge programme. 

As Pakistan continues to refine and enhance its nuclear capability, the country’s officials insist that such modernisation efforts are the result of indigenous production and that, since the dismantling of the Abdul Qadeer Khan nuclear smuggling network in the early 2000s, the country has had a strong non-proliferation record. 

However, a wider investigation by Project Alpha, a research group based at King’s College London, suggests that Pakistan remains reliant on obtaining dual-use goods through a global network of front companies and covert overseas agents for at least some dual-use items. The detailed report of that investigation is forthcoming. 

An extended article covering these developments was published online by IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review on 15 September and will appear in the November edition of that title. 

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