Secrecy News

A.Q. Khan Discusses Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

Pakistan was ready to test a nuclear weapon just six years after it first began to enrich uranium, according to A.Q. Khan, the architect of the Pakistani nuclear program and an infamous proliferator of nuclear weapons designs and technology.

“It was 6 April 1978 when we achieved our first centrifugal enrichment of uranium,” Khan recalled in a chatty, wide-ranging interview with Pakistani television (pdf) last week. “We had achieved 90 percent [enrichment] by early 1983.”

“I wrote a letter to General Zia on 10 December 1984, telling him that the weapon was ready and that we could detonate it on a notice of one week,” Khan said.

In addition to a timeline for the Pakistani nuclear weapons program, the Khan interview discusses the costs and logistics involved, and his successful efforts to evade export controls.  “They could not outmaneuver us, as we remained a step ahead always,” he said.

The interview also provides “interesting information about Pakistan’s supply chains, which he says were the same for Iran and Libya as well,” said Ivanka Barzashka, an FAS researcher who is studying the proliferation of centrifuge technology.

The interview with A.Q. Khan, who was recently released from house arrest, was broadcast in Karachi on August 31.  It was helpfully translated from the Urdu by the DNI Open Source Center.  The translated interview has not been publicly released, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan Discusses Nuclear Program in TV Talk Show,” Aaj News Television, August 31, 2009.