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Sunday, June 18, 2006

'India can make 50 nuke warheads a year'

NEW DELHI: A top former intelligence official has said India would have the capacity to make about 50 nuclear warheads a year as it would be able to retain six reactors outside safeguards envisaged under the India-US nuclear agreement.

"Under the deal, India shall retain six unsafeguarded reactors and shall have the capability of producing nearly 50 nuclear warheads per year," J K Sinha, former Additional Secretary in the Research and Analyses Wing (R&AW) of the Cabinet Secretariat, has said.

Sinha said the assurance of supply of nuclear fuel from the US as well as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) would free India's existing capacity to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for its nuclear weapons programme.

In an article in "Indian Defence Review", Sinha said an estimate showed that "the exempted reactors would be able to produce 130 kg of weapon-grade plutonium per year. Considering that just three to five kg of plutonium-239 is enough to manufacture a bomb of the kind that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki", he observed that the destructive capacity of India's nuclear arsenal was "self-evident".

Maintaining that there should be no doubt that India would continue to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons; he said the entire Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) programme was out of the safeguards ambit.

"The potential of the FBR technology is huge for India's nuclear weapons programme and for power generation," he said.

Observing that it would be for India to designate which of its indigenously manufactured reactors would remain outside the purview of safeguards, the former R&AW official said, "thus, the contention that the concept of 'dynamic credible minimum nuclear deterrence' will be compromised and the nuclear deal will cap India's weapons capability, appears patently erroneous with no relevance to ground realities."

In fact, cooperation of the world community giving India access to the latest technology in the nuclear field following the India-US deal "will only enhance India's capabilities to sustain dynamic nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis Pakistan and China", he said.

Sinha also focussed on the urgent need for the Indian Navy to acquire nuclear submarines that could travel long distances and remain submerged for long periods with the least possibility of detection and destruction.

"India must concentrate its efforts on manufacturing and acquiring nuclear submarines" and the India-US deal, though not directly, would help it in its ongoing efforts to acquire them.

He also stressed the need for improving India's land- based missile capability "by leaps and bounds to meaningfully support the concept of dynamic nuclear deterrence within the framework of No First Use to which India stands committed".
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