Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Does Pakistan have a viable plutonium implosion design?

A lot of attention has focused in the non-proliferation community recently on the Pakistani expansion in Plutonium production at their Khusab facility. But no one has asked the more fundamental question - does Pakistan possess a viable plutonium implosion design.

Before I begin a discussion on that, let me add the standard disclaimers - whatever I present is simply my view and not of any others I may or may not know. I have no intention of discussing what actually goes into a viable implosion design*, and the Pakistanis don't tell me what they are going to do.

I would also like to add, I completely believe Pakistani statements which describe nuclear weapons as option of last resort, and that Pakistan needs to be able to impose losses of the 10 Indians for ever 1 Pakistani level to ensure that its present national security paradigm is remotely viable.

In short - I do not grudge Pakistan anything in its production of Plutonium as long as the material is stored in a fashion that safe from interference. When Gen. Kidwai assures me that is actually the case, I am inclined to believe him.

That being said - like most rational people I feel absent a demonstration of an actual Pakistani warhead on an actual missile that leads to an over ground detonation of measurable yield and military effect - Pakistan's claims of nuclear prowess are more political than military in nature.

I am asking a simple question at this point - do they have a viable implosion design?

If they do not have a viable implosion design - there is nothing to worry about. 

If they do have a design for this - then a host of other questions need to be asked. Questions about stockpile maintenance and security that the Pakistanis will find highly invasive. If Pakistan doesn't answer these questions, then there will be a great deal of skepticism about their claims.

In order for Pakistan to claim it has a viable plutonium implosion device, it will have to engage in an exercise in transparency.

Perhaps Pakistan's entry into nuclear commerce groups should be gated by the results of such an exercise in transparency. That is all I have to say about that.

Naturally this approach can be applied to any claims Pakistan makes in the context of possessing boosted fission or radiation implosion related knowledge.

* A viable design is something like the CHIC-4 that the Pakistanis claimed to have gotten access to. Something that has been designed and tested in a weaponized configuration. The first Chinese design using plutonium is a CHIC-8.


At 8:54 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

If we can get increased transparency out of them, then I think nuclear power generation cooperation would be a good thing. After all, China is going to do it anyway, regardless of how the US and India feels about it. JMT

At 9:54 AM, Blogger maverick said...

If they are willing to be transparent, there is little cause to not begin the process of bringing them into the NSG and other like-minded organizations.

Their civilian nuclear program is not a threat to anyone and if linked to nuclear desalination technologies, it may provide a long term stability to the entire region.

I don't see the point of rejecting the possibility of positive progress.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

The Hindutvas are giddy with the joyous news of greater Russian support of Syria. They welcome the destruction of Assad's opponents and classify them all US backed ISIS jehadis. No exceptions. No such thing as a non ISIS anti Assad political group.

They worship Putin and see him with admiration almost on the same level as Modi. Nobody dares to post anything that can be deemed as anti Russian or the Mods will step in and ban them. The Hindutvas are unified in their admiration and support of pro Russian ideology and pro Iranian backed forces.

The Syrian refugee crisis is caused solely by America and Saudia Arabia in their view. No problems with Assad or weapons and support supplied by Putin. They are merely justifibly reacting to US provocation and creation of ISIS.

I would point out that some of these Hindutvas make their living in the US. They must suffer terribly living in a country that they despise so much. It's sad. I could not endure such a life as that. It would be too depressing.

I think that Putin may have overstepped his bounds. All the US has to do is supply greater anti aircraft weapons and it will start costing him. I think the US is reluctant to do this because of the obvious drawbacks of these weapons falling into the wrong hands. But, still the Russians are depending upon the kindness of strangers in that regard. The effect of US supplied tow missiles on Syrian tanks are well documented.

Putin is not so tender in his regard in supplying anti-aircraft missiles to Ukrainian separatists concerning the shoot down of MH-17 by a BUK missile killing 283 people and 15 crew members. The Hindutvas eagerly cite the shoot down of the Iranian jet liner by the US navy destroyer in Persian Gulf in the 1980's. Everthing's equal, all same same, even though the US has acknowledged its tragic mistake, and offers compensation. So far, Russia is still lying about MH-17.

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Nanana said...

Indeed Ralphy, the BRakts have never seemed to BR proUS in regards to its designs for ME. What exactly is the calculus for US involvement in Syria? Israel? Engery security/dominance? Never figured that out.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Nanana said...

Soft coup in Pak? Or just the praetorian state asserting itself more publicly?

At 11:02 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

Quite frankly I am not sure what the ME policy du jour is of the present administration. The problem is that Obama is not an admirer of Bismark-like policies of blood and iron. He is at heart a constitutional Law professor and a community activist from Chicago. This whole thing of using force to work his will does not settle well with him as it does with Putin. The Arab Spring thing is something Obama appreciates as well as the Ukrainian throwing off the shackles of Russian domination. To recap, he is a community activist that logically and emotionally responds to what he sees as the downtrodden and those who have no civil rights which should be expressed in constitutional law for *everybody*.

The next administration could see and act things differently.

One thing I am fairly certain of is that the US does not like Syrian president for life Assad, his Iranian backers, the Hezbollah, or Putin's Russians for that matter. He will resist all of them while trying to pick off (assinnate) the ISIS and Al Qaeda leadership.

Another thing that is clear to me is that he is loath to repeat an Iraq type withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and leave the 'astani's to the clutches of Al Qaeda, ISIS and Pakistan. He has given up that notion and there will be about 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, for Iraq there will continue to be an Iranian stooge government which the US detests. Especially after the debacle of seeing US trained Iraqi forces abandoning their equipment and running pell mell from northern and western Iraq. The same will happen with Afghanistan if the US leaves.

Evidently the US cannot find democratic allies that can fight the zombie virus that is Islamic and tribal fundamentalism. They cannot or they will not do it without us. End of story.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger maverick said...

> soft coup in Pakistan?

It could be a soft coup. The Pakistani Army will need complete messaging control if the proposed nuclear deal with the US is to be discussed in an objective fashion. The Army is the key stakeholder in the nuclear weapons and related issues discussion. For it to claim success in any negotiations on nuclear affairs with the US, they will need complete information control.

If anything done to secure the deal appears to impinge on Pakistan Army's ability to deliver a credible nuclear deterrence, then that will weaken their position inside Pakistan. They will not accept that risk.

One can only hope that any deterioration to the democratic process in Pakistan as a result of such a soft coup is limited. And the lesson the Pakistan Army learned during the Musharraf era, i.e. it is not worth the trouble to conduct a hard coup - will remain in their collective memory.

At 5:50 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Regarding Syria - that has been Russian client state in the region for a while now. After Saddam was deposed, they lost their only other ally in the region. They will fight to keep Assad in place - it is the key to their presence in the region.

This is going to be a very hard and long fight. Putin is unlikely to back down.

At the base of all these events is the Russian aspiration to be the bridge between Asia and Europe. If a land corridor could be created between China, Europe and the Russian held oil fields in Siberia - then Russia would see remarkable benefits.

As no fresh water ports exist in Russia - its only hope otherwise to connect with the pattern of global trade (based on container ships leaving China for Europe) is to seize a toehold in Crimea and to block any attempt to open the overland routes to Europe from the ME or CAR.

It seems the Putin regime is open to a transactional relationship on energy issues. If this is tendency is accommodated, then perhaps some meaningful leverage will be obtained.

Although this should only be done if the current method of engagement is found to be unviable. So far - belly aching by nobodies about Syrian refugees aside - I see no evidence of unviability of the present regime of engagement. Yes the Syrians are getting screwed - but that is by their own choice really.

One must move very cautiously in the situation.

At 6:33 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Again. I understand the need for US politicians, and assorted talking heads to jabber endlessly about things they clearly do not understand - especially with an election on the horizon, but it is not a good idea to actually do anything in response to that kind of external messaging.

If the present trend of slow polarization continues in the US, then we might see a Hispanic equivalent of the Palestinean "Day of Rage". The geographical location could be CONUS or anywhere else in the world.

While this will doubtlessly play into the hands of US sons-of-the-soil reactionaries and spark the much adored "Civil War" that Dylan Roof and others want, it is unlikely that these sons-of-the-soil types will prevail in such a conflict. The fact of the matter is that most of the illegal immigrants and criminal cartels which Trump fears are all young men with a rough childhood. By contrast their sons-of-the-soil opponents are pushing 70 and juggling lipitor and statins. And both sides have the same AR-15 fully automatics. So this is going to get interesting if it ever gets going.

In Bombay - once upon a time - a series of sons-of-the-soil began to harass immigrants. As they dominated certain sections of the police force, the perps got away with the crimes against minorities and socially oppressed groups. But then given how the underworld really works, the immigrants set up a reciprocity system. For every immigrant that was taken out - a son-of-the-soil would feel a response. A lost job for a burnt house, a death for a death... and so on.

It is interesting to see how quickly the situation stabilized. A certain famous leader of the sons-of-the-soil, quickly changed the severity of his tune when he was informed that all the medical staff at the hospital he was seeking treatment were immigrants. Funny what knowing about the certainty of death does to narcissistic sociopaths even when they are otherwise disconnected from reality.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger maverick said...

It reminds me of what a certain maverick wrote on his resume.. "I am a practiced expert in unproductive human resource management".


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