‘It could help expand India’s uranium enrichment substantially’

Satellite imagery may have blown the shroud of secrecy surrounding India’s efforts to extend a Mysore nuclear centrifuge plant constructed in 1992 for the covert production of uranium hexafluoride, which may in turn be channelled towards the manufacture of hydrogen bombs, a U.S.-based military intelligence think tank has said.

According to the IHS Jane’s group the new potential site at Mysore’s Indian Rare Metals Plant could help expand India’s uranium enrichment “substantially,” for its nuclear submarine fleet and it would be “most likely to facilitate the construction of an increased number of naval reactors,” towards this end.

The organisation has shared the satellite imagery of the Mysore site with The Hindu.

It could also be used to support the development of thermonuclear weapons, IHS Jane’s experts said, noting that the facility was expected to become operational by mid-to late-2015.

“The expansion of India’s uranium enrichment facilities allows the country to press ahead with the introduction of its ballistic missile nuclear submarine fleet, part of an effort to enhance its existing nuclear deterrent in the face of perceived threats from both China and Pakistan,” said Matthew Clements, Editor, IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review.

Karl Dewey, Proliferation Editor at IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, added, “The enrichment plant is primarily built to provide uranium for submarine reactors. However, there will now be significant excess capacity that could be used for other purposes, such as developing nuclear weapons.”

Commenting on the broader context of the U.S. continuing to treat India as a bona fide nuclear weapons State despite India not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Robert Kelley, consultant to IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, added that India was generally “vocal in publicising its defence industry successes, but revealed little about operations at Mysore, possibly to reduce attention to its nuclear trade agreements with the U.S.”

The revelations about India’s covert nuclear programme come even as reports in India suggested that “Contrary to claims, India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant is still not ready for sea trails, a stage critical for testing the vessel’s systems and weapons before it can be commissioned into the Navy.”