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.
On 15th December, the US Department of Commerce issued an update to its Entity List, adding seven entities in Pakistan which appear to be linked to Pakistan’s missile programme.
The move by the BIS End User Review Committee follows close scrutiny of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes prompted, in part, by a report published by Project Alpha in November. That report had identified most of the entities that were added to the US list on the 15th December as well as up to a dozen more front companies procuring illicit goods on behalf of Pakistan, including front companies thought to act on behalf of the newly designated entities.
The timing of the move is noteworthy. With little over a month to go until the inauguration of President Trump, it is possible that the Obama administration acted to list these entities foreseeing a window in which the move would not necessarily hamper US diplomatic ties with Pakistan. While there are signs that Pakistan is discontent with the US action, the Pakistani government will wish to start fresh with the Trump administration regardless.
It is also notable that the US appears to have focused these additions around entities involved in Pakistan’s missile programme. Given that Pakistan earlier this year applied to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, any move by the US to designate entities connected to Pakistan’s nuclear programme would likely be taken as an overtly political act by the outgoing Obama administration.
The entities sanctioned the US are noted below.
Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM)