To complement the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) recent analytical report (link) on Pakistan’s growing enrichment, Project Alpha has worked with Planet Labs LLC to create a time lapse of the construction of the new Kahuta facility. This facility was first publicly identified in Project Alpha’s ‘Alpha-in-Depth’ report on Pakistan’s nuclear programme in 2016. The time-lapse shows construction since 2016 and mirrors Pakistan’s rapid build-up of nuclear weapons capabilities in recent years.
As can be seen in the higher resolution image below, the facility is close to completion, although it appears that the facility will not be operational for a number of months more given that construction of the roof has only recently been completed.
ISIS noted about the site:
New Centrifuge Plant?
The Institute first started receiving notice from government sources in the summer of 2015 that Pakistan was receiving specialized equipment for an extension of its centrifuge program at Kahuta and that a new building was being constructed there.
In 2016, IHS Janes in collaboration with Project Alpha at King’s College published a satellite imagery study, backed up by centrifuge-related procurement data, about this site at Kahuta.1 Although the report listed the site as a probable centrifuge plant, it also listed anomalies that pointed away from this conclusion and said little about the site’s intended purpose or ultimate enrichment capacity. 2 In combination with the Institute’s information, public information supports that more than one government has identified this site as related to gas centrifuge enrichment.
There are sufficient reasons to believe this assessment and investigate the site’s potential capacity for both civil and military enrichment purposes. However, determining its exact purpose remains difficult without more information from Pakistan or perhaps intelligence communities.
The facility, whether for military or civil purposes, will soon be completed. This timing is certain to make more complex Pakistan’s efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.