India raising nuclear weapon capacity: Report

New Delhi, Dec 5 : Based on commercial satellite imagery, a US-based think tank has said India is increasing its ability to produce highly-enriched uranium for military purposes, including more powerful nuclear weapons, at a facility near Mysore in Karnataka.

"Commercial satellite imagery shows that the construction is finishing of what appears to be a second gas centrifuge facility at the Rare Materials Plant (RMP), near Mysore. This new facility could significantly increase India's ability to produce highly enriched uranium for military purposes, including more powerful nuclear weapons," the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said.

David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, in a report, said: "India is also in the early stages of building a larger unsafeguarded centrifuge complex,
the Special Material Enrichment Facility (SMEF), in Karnataka."

Notably, Washington-based ISIS had lobbied against the India-US nuclear deal.

Holding that India's enrichment plants are not under international safeguards or committed to peaceful uses, Albright and Kelleher-Vergantini asked governments and suppliers of nuclear and nuclear related dual use goods throughout the world to be "vigilant" to prevent Indian trading and manufacturing companies to acquire goods for the new centrifuge complex in Karnataka as well as for the RMP.

ISIS said "imagery dated February 2012 showed that overall construction at India's RMP had greatly advanced. The facility believed to contain the new centrifuge plant was much further along. It is apparent in the image that the facility is composed of two large rectangular structures with several adjoining auxiliary ones. The two larger rectangular structures could house the centrifuge cascades.

"High resolution commercial imagery of April 2013 showed that the previous year witnessed further progress at India's RMP. The building containing the suspected new enrichment facility appeared externally to be nearly complete."

The ISIS report said that if it is a new facility, in addition to one that India built in 2010, the country could have more than doubled its enrichment capacity.

"Whether the plant is near operation cannot be determined from the image. The construction of other buildings appears externally complete as well, and the two storage areas seem to have developed further. Other buildings show signs of continued construction.

"The construction of two new buildings seems to be complete, while other surrounding construction continues. The construction staging area continues to be present," said the report.

"However, as a result of domestic opposition alleging this facility is on environmentally sensitive land, the National Green Tribunal, the government environmental oversight body, ordered major construction to halt temporarily in August 2013."

--IANS (Posted on 05-12-2013)

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