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India's Nuclear Program Largest among Developing Countries
Nov 09, 2015

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, a US think tank, India has nuclear arsenal at around 75-125 weapons made from weapon-grade plutonium and perhaps some thermo-nuclear weapons. The report ‘India’s Stocks of Civil and Military Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium, End 2014’ concludes that India has one of the largest nuclear power programmes among developing nations.

Key Points

  • India has a substantial stock of nuclear weapons made from weapon-grade plutonium, and perhaps some thermo-nuclear weapons that rely on both weapon-grade plutonium and weapon-grade uranium.

  • An estimate of India’s nuclear arsenal can be derived by considering its weapon-grade plutonium stock. The resulting estimate has a median of 138 nuclear weapons equivalent with a range of 110 to 175 weapons equivalent.

  • When accounting for the amount of plutonium in the weapons production pipelines and in reserves, it is reasonable to assume that only about 70 percent of the estimated stock of weapon-grade uranium is in nuclear weapons.

  • Utilising plutonium produced in these power reactors and discharged in irradiated or spent fuel, India has developed a relatively large civil plutonium separation programme and an associated fast breeder reactor programme that is using that separated plutonium.

  • For its sizable nuclear weapons effort, India uses separated plutonium produced primarily in a set of small, dedicated reactors and a smaller amount produced in nuclear power reactors.

  • The actual number of nuclear weapons India built from its stocks of weapon-grade plutonium must be less.

  • When accounting for the amount of plutonium in the weapons production pipelines and in reserves, it is reasonable to assume that only about 70 per cent of the estimated stock of weapon-grade uranium is in nuclear weapons. Thus the predicted number of weapons made from its weapon-grade plutonium at the end of 2014 is about 97 with a range of 77-123. These values are rounded to 100 nuclear weapons with a range of 75-125 nuclear weapons.

  • The report estimated that India has made 100-200 kg of weapon-grade uranium for nuclear weapons. Faced with a lack of information but evidence that India has produced HEU (highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons, it is assumed that India has made 100-200 kg of weapon-grade uranium for nuclear weapons. Of course, this estimate is highly uncertain.

  • India also has a growing gas centrifuge programme capable of producing significant amounts of HEU mostly for naval reactor fuel and perhaps for nuclear weapons, including thermonuclear weapons.

  • The report said and alleged that India is not transparent about its fissile material stocks.


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