WASHINGTON - India is expanding its ability to produce highly enriched uranium for military purposes, including more powerful nuclear weapons, according to a US-based think-tank which cited satellite imagery of an under construction gas centrifuge facility near Mysore.
David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, nuclear experts at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), said in a report that India appeared to be finishing construction of what appears to be a second gas centrifuge facility at the Rare Materials Plant (RMP) near Mysore in Karnataka.
The report said that India is also in the early stages of building a larger unsafeguarded centrifuge complex, the Special Material Enrichment Facility (SMEF).
“The success of this secret military enrichment program likely depended on illegal purchases of goods and technology abroad given that this unit aimed to overcome international sanctions imposed on India and trade controls of supplier nations, which BARC called the “Technology Denial Regime,” said ISIS, which also posted imagery on its website.
The non-partisan institution, dedicated to informing the public about science and policy issues affecting international security, said the RMP started operations several years ago and is not under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In 2010, India started building what appears to be a second larger centrifuge plant at the site. However, it is unclear if this new plant is to supplement or replace the first one.
Noting that India’s enrichment plants are not under international safeguards or committed to peaceful uses, the report said the governments and suppliers of nuclear and nuclear related dual use goods throughout the world should be vigilant to prevent efforts by Indian trading and manufacturing companies to acquire such goods for the new centrifuge complex in Karnataka as well as for the RMP.
ISIS said a April 2013 high resolution commercial imagery shows that the previous year witnessed further progress at India’s RMP. The building containing the suspected new enrichment facility appears externally to be nearly complete.
The 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,” it said.