Pakistan Nuclear Milestones, 1955-2009

1955: Establishment of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).

1965: Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto announces “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry. But we will get one of our own.”

November 1965: The 5 MWt Pakistan Research Reactor (PARR-1), fueled with highly enriched uranium (HEU), achieves criticality.

1970s: Pakistan reportedly obtains technology and equipment for the New Labs reprocessing plant from Belgium and France, with the majority coming from Belgonucleaire, according to Pakistani sources.

1971: Pakistan’s 125 MWe Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) becomes operational. According to a report from the American Nuclear Society, Canadian General Electric Co. has served as the supplier, architect-engineer, and constructor of the facility.

1972: Z.A. Bhutto gathers Pakistan’s top scientists at Multan, and orders them to build an atomic bomb.

1972: Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan (a.k.a. A.Q. Khan) reportedly begins work in Amsterdam at the engineering company Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), which worked closely with the Urenco uranium consortium.

1974: India conducts its first nuclear test.

1976: A.Q. Khan becomes director of the Engineering Research Laboratories at Kahuta.

1976: Canada terminates the supply of technical assistance, spare parts, and fuel to Pakistan’s KANUPP nuclear facility.

April 1978: According to A. Q. Khan, Pakistan achieves its first centrifugal enrichment of uranium in Rawalpindi.

1979: The United States suspends economic and military aid to Pakistan under section 669 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, after receiving what it believes to be credible evidence of Pakistan’s covert construction of an uranium enrichment facility.

Early 1983: According to A. Q. Khan, Pakistan achieves ninety percent enrichment of uranium.

1984: Kahuta enrichment plant produces enriched uranium. Pakistan’s President General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq is quoted as saying that “Pakistan has acquired very modest research and development capability of uranium enrichment very successfully,” emphasizing that it is for “nothing but peaceful purposes.”

1984: According to A. Q. Khan, Pakistan possesses a nuclear bomb that can be detonated in one week’s notice.

1985: Congress passes the Pressler Amendment conditioning U.S. aid on whether the U.S. can certify Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device.

1986: According to a classified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report cited in the press, Pakistan has succeeded in enriching uranium to 93.5 percent at Kahuta and has been developing the mechanisms necessary for nuclear explosions.

1988: Pakistan and India agree to exchange lists of nuclear installations, as part of an agreement not to attack each others’ nuclear facilities. The first exchange occurs in January 1992.

1989: Pakistan’s 30 kW PARR-2 research reactor achieves criticality.

Late 1980s: Pakistan reportedly completes a computerized “cold test” of its nuclear weapon technology, according to retired army chief of staff Mirza Aslam Beg.

1990: France announces approval of the sale of a nuclear power plant to Pakistan, ending a 14-year embargo.

1990: President Bush can no longer certify Pakistan has no nuclear weapons. The United States suspends military aid to Pakistan.

1991: China and Pakistan conclude an agreement for cooperation in constructing a 300 MWe reactor at Chashma. The China Chongyuan Engineering Corporation (CZEC) is to execute the project for China’s National Nuclear Corporation.

1992: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shahryar Khan says Pakistan has the components and know-how to make at least one nuclear explosive “device.”

1994: German officials announce the seizure of preforms for gas centrifuge scoops destined for Pakistan.

1995: On a visit to Washington, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says her country does not have nuclear weapons and lobbies for the delivery of American F-16 aircraft to Pakistan.

February 1996: British customs seize a shipment of Swedish laser measuring equipment intended for a Pakistani company known to be a front for Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program.

February 1996: The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reveals that China covertly sold 5,000 ring magnets to Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories.

September 1996: China secretly sells an industrial furnace and high-tech diagnostic equipment with military applications to “unsafeguarded nuclear facilities in Pakistan.”

December 1996: Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry announces that China will build a second nuclear power plant in Pakistan.

1997: According to former Pakistani Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg, Pakistan has completed computer simulations of a nuclear weapon explosion.

April 1998: A 50-MW (thermal) plutonium production reactor in Khushab reportedly goes operational.

May 1998: Pakistan conducts nuclear tests in the Chagai Hills. According to American scientists the first explosion measured 4.8 to 4.9 in magnitude, corresponding to a yield of 8 to 17 kilotons. The second blast, two days later, recorded a magnitude of only 4.3, corresponding to a yield of 1 kiloton, suggesting that the test was of a smaller device or that it failed. A.Q. Khan claimed that Pakistan tested “a big bomb which has a yield of about 30-35 kilotons, and four small, tactical weapons of low yield.” He also stated that uranium was used as the fissile material and none of the explosions were thermonuclear.

June 1998: Pakistan and India announce a moratorium on further nuclear weapons tests.

June 1998: The foreign ministers of the United States and seven other industrialized countries announce that they would act together to postpone loans to Pakistan by international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

January 1999: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund renew lending to Pakistan after the U.S. drops its opposition to multilateral aid.

February 1999: According to Ishfaq Ahmed, Chairman of the PAEC, Pakistan is self-reliant in the production of heavy water, enriched uranium, zirconium and spare parts for its nuclear program.

May 1999: Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan visits Pakistan’s secret nuclear facilities at Kahuta and a missile factory, raising Western concerns that Saudi Arabia may be interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia denies any such intentions.

July 1999: British customs intercepts 20 tons of key components used in manufacturing nuclear weapons, including high-grade aluminum, destined for Pakistan.

August 1999: A Pakistani official claims that Pakistan can “build a nuclear weapon of any type or size, including [a] neutron bomb.”

November 1999: PAEC announces it is developing a new uranium field in Tumman Leghari. Its uranium mining project at Baghalchar is being closed because “there are no more uranium reserves in the region,” and not because of international pressure.

February 2000: Establishment of a comprehensive command and control structure for Pakistan’s nuclear forces. The components are the National Command Authority, Strategic Plans Division and Strategic Forces Commands.

March 2000: According to U.S., French, and Pakistani officials, Pakistan reportedly smuggled in a heavy water production plant based on hydrogen sulfide exchange technology and set it up in Khushab. The plant generated heavy water for the Khushab reactor that became operational in 1998.

June 2000: Pakistan’s 300 MWe Chashma Nuclear Power Plant (CHASNUPP-1) pressurized water reactor (PWR), constructed by China National Nuclear Cooperation (CNNC) and China Nuclear Construction Cooperation (CNCC), becomes operational.

June 2000: The PAEC is reportedly operating an upgraded pilot reprocessing facility at New Labs in Rawalpindi to separate plutonium from spent fuel discharged from the unsafeguarded heavy water reactor at Khushab.

2000-2002: Pakistan reportedly starts construction of a second plutonium production reactor at Khushab.

January-June 2001: The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) states that Pakistan continues to acquire nuclear-related equipment and materials from a variety of sources, “principally” in Western Europe. In spite of China’s May 1996 pledge not to assist any unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, the CIA “cannot rule out” the possibility of continued contact between Chinese and Pakistani entities on nuclear weapons development.

September 2001: U.S. President George Bush lifts sanctions against India and Pakistan imposed under the Arms Export Control Act.

November 2001: Pakistan reportedly detained two nuclear scientists and begun questioning them on their alleged connections to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, who assisted in Pakistan’s uranium enrichment efforts, and Abdul Majeed, who worked at PAEC until 1999, both admit having met with Osama bin Laden and Mohammad Omar on at least three occasions in 2000, but insist these meetings were in connection with a relief agency.

January 2003: The periodical Nuclear Fuel cites unnamed sources as stating that Pakistan provided North Korea and Iran with detailed Khan Research Laboratory (KRL) centrifuge design information, stolen from the Urenco program during the 1970s and 1980s.

Early 2003: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao sign a memorandum of understanding for construction of a second 300 MWe PWR, the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant unit (CHASNUPP-2).

July-December 2003: The CIA states that Iran and Libya have previously received “designs for Pakistan’s older centrifuges, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models, and components.”

February 2004: A.Q. Khan is fired from his government position after investigators discover that he made millions of dollars from the sale of nuclear-related blueprints and technical assistance to Iran and Libya through a nuclear black market. Khan confesses to nuclear technology and enrichment technology transfers, involving North Korea, Iran, Libya, and Malaysia, beginning in the mid-1980s.

February 2004: Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf grants a full pardon to A.Q. Khan.

March 2004: According to Nigeria’s defense ministry, Pakistan’s Military Chief of Staff, General Muhammad Aziz Khan, announces that Pakistan is considering how best to “assist Nigeria’s armed forces to strengthen its military capability and to acquire nuclear power.”

May 2004: PAEC Chairman Parvez Butt and CNNC President Kang Rixin sign a deal to build CHASNUPP-2 at Chashma, under plant-specific inspections.

June 2004: India and Pakistan announce in a joint statement their decision to establish dedicated hotlines between their foreign secretaries and to upgrade bilateral military hotlines. The improvements are to prevent misunderstandings and to help avoid an accidental nuclear war.

September 2004: Pakistan’s national legislation entitled “Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and Their Delivery Systems Act, 2004” comes into force. The regulations, which carry up to 14 years of imprisonment and Rs5 million in fines, apply to Pakistani citizens at home or abroad, foreign nationals in Pakistan’s territory, as well as ground, air, or ship transport registered in Pakistan.

March 2005: The PAEC has reportedly decided to establish new laboratories and facilities to counteract the “very serious threats/problems of embargo by foreign companies towards the supply of high-precision scientific and technical equipment and material,” by requesting government approval for Rs2.5 billion to upgrade and expand the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (Pinstech).

April 2005: Construction begins on the Chashma Nuclear Power Project Unit-2 (CHASNUPP-2).

May 2005: Japan makes public its decision to lift all economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan following its nuclear tests.

August 2005: A “senior official” reportedly states that after nine months of reviewing data collected by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, a group of scientists from the United States, France, Japan, Britain and Russia have definitively matched traces of HEU found in Iran with samples obtained from centrifuge equipment provided by Pakistan to the IAEA.

August-September 2005: Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf, confirms for the first time that A.Q. Khan provided North Korea with “centrifuges – parts and complete,” amounting to “probably a dozen.” Musharraf also states that Khan may have sent uranium hexafluoride to North Korea. In making these statements, Musharraf continues to assert that the Pakistan’s military was not aware of A.Q. Khan’s activities.

Mid-2006: Pakistan reportedly starts construction of a third plutonium production reactor at Khushab.

October 2007: Pakistan’s Executive Committee of the National Economic Council has approved construction of a Chemical Processing Plant (CPP) and Nuclear Fuel Enrichment Plant (NFEP). These projects are reportedly part of the Pakistan Nuclear Power Fuel Complex to be built at Kundian, which will also include a fuel fabrication plant, a fuel-testing laboratory and a tubing plant. Work on the fuel fabrication and tubing plants is reportedly underway.

2007: The Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) is set up to administer export controls related to the “Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and Their Delivery Systems Act, 2004”.

2007: The commercial scale plutonium reprocessing facility at Chashma is reportedly nearing completion.

January 2009: Construction of the buildings associated with the second plutonium production reactor at Khushab appears to be completed. The second reactor could start in the near future.

March 2009: According to U.S. intelligence, Pakistan continues to develop its nuclear infrastructure and expand nuclear weapon stockpiles while seeking more advanced warheads and delivery systems.

September 2009: According to one estimate, Pakistan has approximately seventy to ninety nuclear weapons.