April 17, 2004
information from Pakistani sources is highly unreliable. The author
estimates that Pakistan had spent about $12 Billion by the time Atom Bomb
was ready in 1989…)
Nuclear issue: Indian media is silent about it
End of The Indo-US Nuke Deal?
What If India-US Nuclear Deal Fails
USA"s nuclear design on India
Discord on Indo–US Nuclear Deal
Indo-US nuclear Deal and its consequences
N-Deal: Plan B if the Deal Fails
US Legislative Process: Indo-US N-Deal
N-deal: Economic, Political and
Indo-American Nuclear Pact - Rationales
India"s Nuclear Surrender to USA
P-6 and The Nuclear Truth Narayanan
India's Options to Pakistan's Nuclear Threat
Cost Pakistan Incurred to Build the Nuclear Bomb
Nuclear Black Market in Pakistan
Has America Gained Control of Their Nuclear Weapons?
Cost of building the
Pakistani Nuclear Bomb, since Zulfikaar Ali Bhutto initiated the program
in 1974, has been variously estimated. Some experts have put the cost at
$10 to $25 Billion dollars. Others estimate it as at low as $5.5 Billion.
It is hard to pin down the costs as most of the Bomb making costs from
1974 till the 1989 cold test, have been deliberately disguised.
In the absence of any data, various peace groups,
government agencies, and leaks in the various newspapers have attempted to
estimate these costs. These estimates have served their purpose. American
do not wish every country in the world to attempt building nuclear bombs,
hence they suggest prohibitive costs. Present day dictators wish to
challenge the super powers, hence embark upon this program to give himself
or herself, parity with the super powers hence ignore costs at the expense
of economic development.
How did the
Zulfikaar Ali Bhutto
had difficulty finding enough physicists to form a core group to build a
bomb in 1974. Initial main focus was to copy India in building Plutonium
type implosion device that India had just exploded. The focus immediately
shifted to using Uranium-235 with the arrival of stolen plans from
Holland. Although work on the former was not completely stopped but the
main focus shifted to enriching Uranium to weapon’s grade U-235. The Dutch
plans put Pakistan far ahead in technology and costs. The big part of the
costs, which is R & D, came for free. The latter part of acquiring the
components to build the centrifuge from German, Malaysian and US sources
was much more expensive. Pakistan took three to four years to digest the
stolen information and cultivate potential suppliers and middlemen for the
supply of parts and components. Placing of orders began in 1982 and
continued till in 1987. This activity was not missed by the US, but was
ignored, as Pakistan was the base for war in Afghanistan.
How much did it
cost US to build the First Bomb in 1945?
America started in
earnest to build the Bomb in 1942, when a bunch of émigré nuclear
scientists wrote to President Roosevelt that Germans have achieved a major
breakthrough in splitting the Atom, hence unleashing untold amount of
energy. Concerned America immediately embarked upon an effort to outdo the
Germans. They attempted various techniques to separate U-235 from
naturally occurring U-238. These were not very successful. Reasons – it
was all a pioneering effort, never attempted before, hence was taking
longer and costing more. Gaseous diffusion, electromagnetic separation and
even centrifuging were attempted at various laboratories with varying
success. Still, not enough U-235 could be produced to set off a test
explosion. The scientists at Los Alamos explored the alternative route of
implosion using Plutonium core. This attempt was more successful. The
first Bomb test in New Mexico desert in 1945 was an Implosion device.
Alternative route of U-235 also made a better progress with the
commissioning of Calutron at Oakridge, Tenn. By early 1945, the scientists
had managed to separate enough U-235 for one gun barrel type of nuclear
bomb in which U-235 will be split to release the energy.
In this three and
half year period the US Congress appropriated amounts $250 million in the
first year and $500 million in subsequent years to build the Bomb. In
addition, the US Army, which managed the project and provided security,
infrastructure etc. spent additional $250 million from its budget. Hence
the first three US bombs – the laboratory model tested in New Mexico, the
Little Boy dropped over (Hiroshima – Gun Barrel, U-235 type) and Fat Man
(Plutonium implosion device) dropped over Nagasaki had cost about $2
In today’s terms
(2004), after adjusting for inflation the cost of building first three
Bombs of America will be about $15 Billion. This does not include building
up of an arsenal later by USA, which has been estimated to cost $5.8
Trillion over 58 years.
(The above is all
The Pakistani Bomb
Information we know from the published sources
Aslam Effendi, a
Pakistani analyst writing in “The News” recently put the cost of building
the bomb in last 20 years (1978 –98) at Rs. 20 Billion. This translates
into about $5.5 Billion after adjusting for exchange rate. Exclusions and
inclusions have not been stated. The latter may be the key to whole
M Ziauddin, another
Pakistani analyst has estimated the cost of nuclear deterrence against
India at $10 to 15 Billion. This amount probably includes missiles and 30
or so nuclear bombs. These costs also include expenditures on command and
One cannot be
certain about the reliability of the sources, which the above analysts
have used to publish their cost estimates. But one goes with the
assumption that official leaks made these analysts publish this sensitive
data. Hence there is bit of a hidden agenda behind this data. Analysts
are commonly used to inform or misinform public and enemies about the
Peace Groups Estimates
These groups wildly
estimate costs at $10 to 25 Billion. But they are pushing their own agenda
by overstating or understating any information. Hence their estimates are
India has maintained
a low-key attitude about discussing any Atomic Bomb matters. This is quite
the opposite for the exuberant A Q Khan, who started to talk to the world
with his interview in 1988 to the Indian journalist Kuldip Nayyar and
later to others. He wished to become an immortal in Pakistani people’s
eyes. This he could achieve only by discussing his successes.
Capping of the Program in early nineties
In 1989 Benazir
Bhutto was the Prime Minister and General Aslam Beg was the all-powerful
Chief of the Military. Together they decided (under possible US pressure)
to cap the Uranium – 235 productions. It is not known how much production
of the U-235 (Weapon’s Grade) had been achieved by that time. But it is
certain that sufficient quantities had been produced to set off a few
bombs. The idled scientists went around the world selling their technology
of centrifuges to Libya, Iran and North Korea and pocketed some of the
proceeds. Kahuta Research Lab was kept functioning with monies from the
Army and remaining monies of the above mentioned illicit trade.
went full steam ahead to build the U-235 Centrifuge, but did not abandon
the Plutonium route for the Bomb technology. They kept at it concurrent to
other technological development, which they were pursuing wholeheartedly.
They sent intelligence operatives and middlemen to purchase bomb triggers
and other components, which were needed to assemble the Plutonium Bomb.
One such intelligence operative was caught in 1986 in US, purchasing
components and was expelled. But the Reagan Administration took no further
action, as Pakistan was frontline state in US’s fight with the Soviet
Union in Afghanistan. It is believed that Pakistan’s interest in Plutonium
Bomb has been revived in last 5 years.
What Role China
Played and How did it get Paid?
It is common
knowledge that the all the Dutch designs could not be translated into
practical operating machines. In other areas, components could simply not
be procured by clandestine means. Hence, China was asked and they stepped
into the void by providing the much-needed technical help. Chinese are
known to have helped in perfecting the Centrifuge and with the initial
Bomb design. Chinese supplied the much older version of the American Bomb
design, which they had stolen in sixties. Pakistani improved the design
and perfected it into their-own Bomb. Additional help in perfecting the
firing mechanism was also provided by China.
All this help did
not come for free. Chinese and Pakistani are silent about it, but it is
fair to assume that China collected details of the Dutch Centrifuge from
the Pakistanis in lieu for their help. This helped them to improve their
own design. But, helping Pakistan has been of much greater political value
to the Chinese. It keeps India busy on the Western Border.
What can you
Estimate from the Published Data?
As stated above, it
cost US about $2 Billion to build the first three bombs in 1945. All the
three were laboratory versions. Hence all costs can be classified as R &
D. But the infrastructure built to produce the prototypes stayed and has
been used to mass-produce the weapons.
The above $2 Billion
effort, if it is to be duplicated in 1981 – 89 with current technologies,
then it will cost about $8 Billion. Inflation alone will quadruple the
cost. From this deduct costs for experimental technologies tried to
concentrate U-235 in 1945, which need not be done now and adjust for
productivity improvement. To this add infrastructure costs, which were
accounted for elsewhere in the War effort. Hence a Cost of $8 Billion is a
reasonable figure. The forgoing $8 Billion is cost estimate if built in
America, based on competitive bidding for contracts and availability of
the trained manpower. Elsewhere the costs will be higher.
Let us try and
Arrive at Comparable Pakistani Costs
The Pakistani bomb
builders had no R & D costs (they stole the technology). The untrained
manpower added to the delay, hence cost (it took Pakistani engineers four
to five years before procurement specs. could be written). The hardware
cost was phenomenally high; as all deals were hush-hush deals hence were
higher priced. In addition hefty commissions had to be paid to the
middlemen, followed by multiple trans-shipments to deceive the ultimate
destination of the hardware. All the forgoing added to the cost.
The above, if all
the pluses and minuses are accounted for will roughly double the cost of
hardware before it is installed and commissioned. The local installation
and commissioning will add significant amounts before any production can
Adding Up all the
Costs Till 1989.
Summarily, I will
place the Pakistani Bomb costs as follows:
- Training and Development (1978 –
82) $1.5 Billion
- Hardware Procurement, Installation and
$ 5.0 Billion
Commissioning (1982 – 89)
- Project Management and Others (1978 –
89) $ 1.0 Billion
(About 12% of installed costs)
- Direct Labor (12,000 scientists and
Engineers $ 2.0 Billion
1981 – 89)
- Utilities and Infrastructure costs
(1982 –89) $ 2.0 Billion
- Others including costs absorbed by the
Army $ 0.5 Billion
Total $ 12.0 Billion
The above is still
order and magnitude estimate with +/- 20% accuracy. No researcher will
ever get to the right figure as it has been cleverly disguised in various
government department expenses, hence unavailable.
management in Kahuta followed exactly the path the America used to acquire
its nuclear capability in 1942-45. At Los Alamos, engineers and scientists
were given a free hand in their endeavor. The US Army controlled the
overall project management, security, procurement and public relations.
The Army also set the time schedule.
program followed the same style of project management as the US. It was
the Pakistani Army, which controlled and accounted the program.
Procurement was army and intelligence controlled where diplomats posted in
foreign countries and intelligence agents acted as procurement agents. The
site had the strictest security to prevent any information leaks, all
provided by the Army. Trusted civilian administrators kept the accounts
and arranged for all the monies needed. From day one, three men civilian
committee consisting of Ghulam Ishaq Khan (then Defense Secretary), A G N
Kazi (then Finance Secretary) and Agha Shahai (then Foreign Secretary)
provided the civilian face for the effort.
Tests in 1998
Test in 1998 was
conducted out of materials produced during commissioning and prior to
ceasing production at 93% U-235 under US pressure in 1989. Five test
explosions were set off. Two were fission devices of 25 Kiloton and 12
Kiloton range. Three others were Sub Kiloton devices. These were exact
copies of the Indian tests a month earlier.
With these tests
Pakistan exhausted quite a bit of its supplies of fissionable materials
and wished to restart the Centrifuge to produce 93% Weapons Grade U-235
again. Indo-Pak tension was the perfect excuse. The production has been
restarted and in last five years and enough weapons grade fission material
has been manufactured to make 30 to 40 Bombs.
Pakistan and Its
Quest for the bomb
is exhausted with its Jihad, nuclear parity expenses and general economic
collapse brought on by diverting monies to needless causes. It has
probably lost a bit of its internal sovereignty to US by letting US joint
control over its nuclear weapons. Columnist Khursheed Nadeem has asked
Why did Regular Pakistani
army with nuclear weapons fail to win over Kashmir
Why did Jehad fail in
Why has diplomacy failed to
His point – Is it
worthwhile to continue with high expenses on army, nuclear weapons and
missiles, since there is no possibility of catching up with India and
grabbing Kashmir. The technology developed so far can only be gifted away
not sold for a price to defray the initial expenses. The driving force for
these expenses i.e. the Kashmir issue and parity with India are still
insolvable issues. Kashmir will always remain Indian and India is too big
for Pakistan to get a meaningful parity, hence quite a bit of waste has
happened in a country with poor resources.
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