Pakistan: The Path to High-Enriched Uranium

In the early 1970s, Pakistan began shopping for the equipment needed to convert the uranium found in nature to nuclear weapon grade, a process known as enrichment.

By using imports from Western Europe, Pakistan was able to construct enough gas centrifuges to enrich hundreds of pounds of uranium, sufficient for a small nuclear arsenal.

The key manufacturing steps are shown below.

Uranium ore is mined at Baghalchar and Qubul Khel and milled at Dera Ghazi Khan and at Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Minerals Center in Lahore.

Uranium is purified and converted to hexafluoride gas at Dera Ghazi Khan, which can produce 200 metric tons of hexafluoride gas per year.

Uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) is enriched in high-speed centrifuges to nuclear weapon grade at the Kahuta gas centrifuge plant near Islamabad. Pakistan also runs a pilot-scale centrifuge plant at Sihala, and may be building a facility at Golra.

High-enriched uranium is fabricated into nuclear weapon parts by Pakistan’s Ministry of Defense and the A. Q. Khan research facilities.