Pakistan’s Nuclear Explosion – Takbeer Day – May 28, 1998
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was established in 1972 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who founded the program while he was Minister for Fuel, Power and Natural Resources, and later became President and Prime Minister. Shortly after the loss of East Pakistan in the 1971 war with India, Bhutto initiated the program with a meeting of physicists and engineers at Multan in January 1972.
India’s 1974 testing of a nuclear “device” gave Pakistan’s nuclear program new momentum. Through the late 1970s, Pakistan’s program acquired sensitive uranium enrichment technology and expertise. The 1975 arrival of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan considerably advanced these efforts. Dr. Khan is a German-trained metallurgist who brought with him knowledge of gas centrifuge technologies that he had acquired through his position at the classified URENCO uranium enrichment plant in the Netherlands.
Dr. Khan also reportedly brought with him uranium enrichment technologies from Europe. He was put in charge of building, equipping and operating Pakistan’s Kahuta facility, which was established in 1976. Under Khan’s direction, Pakistan employed an extensive clandestine network in order to obtain the necessary materials and technology for its developing uranium enrichment capabilities.
In 1985, Pakistan crossed the threshold of weapons-grade uranium production, and by 1986 it is thought to have produced enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Pakistan continued advancing its uranium enrichment program, and according to Pakistani sources, the nation acquired the ability to carry out a nuclear explosion in 1987.
Pakistan’s nuclear program is based primarily on highly enriched uranium (HEU), which is produced at the A. Q. Khan research laboratory at Kahuta, a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility. The Kahuta facility has been in operation since the early 1980s. By the early 1990s, Kahuta had an estimated 3,000 centrifuges in operation, and Pakistan continued its pursuit of expanded uranium enrichment capabilities
On May 28, 1998 Pakistan announced that it had successfully conducted five nuclear tests. The Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission reported that the five nuclear tests conducted on May 28 generated a seismic signal of 5.0 on the Richter scale, with a total yield of up to 40 KT (equivalent TNT). Dr. A.Q. Khan claimed that one device was a boosted fission device and that the other four were sub-kiloton nuclear devices.
On May 30, 1998 Pakistan tested one more nuclear warhead with a reported yield of 12 kilotons. The tests were conducted at Balochistan, bringing the total number of claimed tests to six. It has also been claimed by Pakistani sources that at least one additional device, initially planned for detonation on 30 May 1998, remained emplaced underground ready for detonation.
The decision of nuclear tests was made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, amid high pressure from the world. These tests came slightly more than two weeks after India carried out five nuclear tests of its own on May 11 and 13 and after many warnings by Pakistani officials that they would respond to India.