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Pak nuclear storage site on satellite map.

Article puts Pak nuke warheads between 70 and 90 <p>THE INDEFATIGABLE Hans M. Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists has done it again.

He has posted on his blog a satellite picture of what is almost certainly a Pakistani nuclear weapons storage site near the Masroor Air Force base, some 12 km from Karachi. The picture features the special security that nuclear weapons facilities have, as well as their well separated storage bunkers.

The September-- October 2009 issue of the prestigious Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has upped its estimates of Pakistani nuclear warheads to anywhere between 70 and 90. The previous estimate was around 60 warheads.

According to the Nuclear Notebook section of the bulletin, Pakistan " is busily enhancing its capabilities across the board". It says Islamabad is readying a new nuclear- capable ballistic missile ( Shaheen II) for deployment, two cruise missiles -- the ground- launched Barbur and the air- launched Ra'ad -- are under development and two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility are also under construction.

Kristensen does note, however, that " the increase in the warhead estimate does not mean Pakistan is thought to be sprinting ahead of India, which is also increasing its stockpile". While this is probably the first public domain picture of a Pakistani nuclear storage facility, there are none yet for India, which is thought to have a larger arsenal. The reason may be that India's weapons and the nuclear core are kept separately and the secrecy of their location is what guarantees their security. By that measure, the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons storage facility of the kind revealed could indicate it could soon maintain complete nuclear weapons in its arsenal, rather than dis- assembled ones like India.

Security is an important issue in relation to Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Shaun Gregory, a professor at Bradford University in UK, said in a paper published by the Combating Terrorism Center of the US Military Academy at West Point, that there were at least three known attacks on Pakistani nuclear facilities.

The first attack took place on the nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha on November 1, 2007; the second was the attack on Pakistan's nuclear airbase at Kamra by a suicide bomber on December 10, 2007; and perhaps most significant was the August 20, 2008 attack when Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew up several entry points to one of the armament complexes at the Wah cantonment, considered one of Pakistan's main nuclear weapons assembly.

The article does note that " most" of Pakistan's nuclear sites may be proximate to areas dominated by terrorists, but senior US officials claim the weapons were secure and mostly located south of Islamabad.

Whether Pakistan has other means of securing its arsenal, through the provision of special codes called Permissive Action Links ( PALs), or not is not known. The US did offer Pakistan assistance for such PALs but Islamabad turned it down fearing that the technology could contain a " kill" switch to enable the US to disable such weapons at will.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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