India and Pakistan--Current and Potential Nuclear Arsenals
by David Albright
The decision by India to conduct five nuclear tests in May 1998
threatens to spark an all- out nuclear arms race between India and
Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan have developed the capability to produce
unsafeguarded weapon-grade plutonium and weapon-grade uranium (WGU) for
nuclear weapons. However, until now, both countries have constrained their
nuclear competition, preferring to keep their arsenals undeployed. In
addition, Pakistan decided in the early 1990s to stop producing
weapon-grade uranium, in essence capping its stock of material for nuclear
India is widely perceived to have a significantly larger nuclear
arsenal than Pakistan. The following estimate shows that if a nuclear arms
race developed between India and Pakistan and Pakistan decided to resume
WGU production, India's overwhelming advantage could disappear.
ISIS estimates that India has about 370 kilograms of weapon-grade
plutonium, or the equivalent of about 74 nuclear weapons. India relies
principally on the Dhruva reactor for weapon-grade plutonium, and can
increase its stock of weapon-grade plutonium at a rate of about 20
kilograms per year. This amount corresponds to roughly four nuclear
weapons per year. At this rate, in 2005 India is estimated to have enough
weapon-grade plutonium for over 100 nuclear weapons.
India could produce significantly more weapon-grade plutonium by
using its CANDU power reactors, although it may not have sufficient
facilities to separate significant quantities of plutonium from the
irradiated CANDU fuel.
When Pakistan froze its production of weapon-grade uranium in 1991,
it had produced an estimated 210 kilograms at the Kahuta gas centrifuge
uranium enrichment facility. At roughly 20 kg of weapon-grade uranium per
weapon, this is enough material for about 10 weapons. As of early 1998,
Pakistan is not known to have resumed the production of HEU.
Since 1991, Pakistan is believed to have produced low enriched
uranium (LEU) there. If Pakistan decides to resume its production of WGU,
it would likely use its stock of LEU to produce WGU more quickly. If the
enrichment output of the Kahuta plant remains fixed, Pakistan could produce
about 300 kg of weapon-grade uranium during the first year by utilizing its
LEU as "feed" for Kahuta. In subsequent years, Pakistan is estimated to be
able to produce about 110 kg/yr of weapon-grade uranium, using natural
uranium feed. In 2005, Pakistan is estimated to have enough weapon-grade
uranium for over 60 nuclear weapons.
In addition, in April 1998 Pakistan commissioned an unsafeguarded
reactor that is capable of producing about 10-15 kg/yr of weapon-grade
plutonium, or enough for about 2-3 nuclear weapons per year. However, this
output is not considered here. Pakistan also could significantly increase
Kahuta's output, but this possible action is similarly not considered.
Although India is estimated, as of early 1998, to possess
seven-times more nuclear weapons than Pakistan, the table shows that
Pakistan could reduce that margin to a factor of less than two over the
next eight years. If India wanted to maintain a significant lead over
Pakistan, it would be forced to dramatically increase its fissile material
production. Pakistan, however, is capable of matching such an increase.
India's and Pakistan's cumulative projected fissile material stocks
and nuclear weapons potential
May 13, 1998
End of ... WGPu* # of weapons WGU** # of weapons
1995 330 66 210 10
1996 350 70 210 10
1997 370 74 210 10
1998 390 78 500 25***
1999 410 82 610 30***
2000 430 86 720 36***
2001 450 90 830 41***
2002 470 94 940 47***
2003 490 98 1,050 52***
2004 510 102 1,160 58***
2005 530 106 1,270 63***
* Weapon-grade plutonium, in kilograms
** Weapon-grade uranium, in kilograms
*** Assumes HEU production resumes in 1998.
For additional information, contact ISIS at (202) 547-3633.
Institute for Science and International Security
For Immediate Release: May 13, 1998
ISIS MEDIA ADVISORY
For more information, contact: David Albright, President
or Kevin O'Neill, Deputy Director