Kahuta Research Laboratories
Main articles: Engineering Research Laboratories and Kahuta Test
Bhutto sensed great danger as the scientists were split between uranium and plutonium routes. Therefore, he called Khan for a meeting, which was held at the prime minister secretariat. With the backing of Bhutto, Qadeer Khan took over the enrichment program and renamed the project to Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL). Abdul Qadeer Khan insisted to work with the Corps of Engineers to lead the construction of the suitable operational enrichment site, which was granted. The E-in-C directed Brigadier Zahid Ali Akbar of Corps of Engineers to work with Qadeer Khan in Project-706. The Corps of Engineers and Brigadier Akbar quickly acquired the lands of the village of Kahuta for the project. The military realized the dangers of atomic experiments being performed in populated areas and thus remote Kahuta was considered an ideal location for reearch. Bhutto would subsequently promote BrigadierZahid Akbar to Major-General and handed over the directorship of the Project-706, with Qadeer Khan being its senior scientist.
On the other hand, the PAEC did not forgo the electromagnetic isotope separation research and a parallel program was conducted by theoretical physicist Dr. G.D. Allam at Air Research Laboratories (ARL) located at Chaklala PAF base, though G.D. Allam had not seen a centrifuge, but only had a rudimentary knowledge of the Manhattan Project.
At first, the ERL suffered many setbacks, and relied heavily on the knowledge from URENCO brought by Qadeer Khan. Meanwhile in April 1976, theorist Ghulam Dastigar Alam accomplished a great feat by successfully rotating the first generation centrifuges to ~30,000 RPM. When the news reached Qadeer Khan, he immediately requested to Bhutto for G.D. Alam's assistance which was granted by the PAEC, dispatching a team of scientists including G.D. Alam to ERL. At ERL, Qadeer Khan joined the team of theoretical physicists headed by theorist dr. GD Allam, working on the physics problems involving the differential equations in the centripetal forcesand angular momentum calculations in the ultra-centrifuges. On 4 June 1978, the enrichment program became fully functional after Dr. G.D. Alam succeeded in separated the 235U and 238U isotopes in an important experiment in which Dr. A.Q Khan also took part. Contrary to his expectation, the military approved to the appointment of Major-General Zahid Ali as the scientific director of entire uranium division.
In 1981, when General Akbar was posted back to combat assignments, Khan took over the operations of ERL as its interim director and senior scientist. In 1983, his appointment as director of ERL was personally approved by President Zia-ul-Haq who renamed the ERL after him.
Khan Research Laboratories
A.Q. Khan Laboratories
Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL)
Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories [KRL], Pakistan's main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging center for long-rnage missile development. The primary Pakistani fissile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium [HEU]. This facility is not under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, but according the the governemnt of Pakistan the facility is physically secure and safe.
Dr. A.Q. Khan is a German-educated metallurgist who until 1975 was employed at the URENCO uranium enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands. A year after India's 1974 nuclear test, Dr. Khan departed URENCO with blueprints for the uranium centrifuge, and information on URENCO's key suppliers. A.Q. Khan initially worked under Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), headed by Munir Ahmad Khan, for a short period. But the pair fell out, and in July 1976, Bhutto gave A.Q. Khan autonomous control of the uranium enrichment project, reporting directly to the prime minister's office, which arrangement has continued since. A.Q. Khan founded the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) on 31 July 1976, with the exclusive task of indigenous development of Uranium Enrichment Plant. Within the next five years the target was achieved. On 01 May 1981 ERL was renamed as Dr. A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). It was enrichment of Uranium in KRL that ultimately led to the successful detonation of Pakistan's first nuclear device on 28 May 1998.
Chinese assistance in the development of gas centrifuges at Kahuta was indicated by the presence of Chinese technicians at the facility in the early 1980s. The uranium enrichment facility began operating in 1984, but suffered serious start up problems. Kahuta began producing HEU in 1986, and Pakistan's fabrication of weapons may have begun soon thereafter, with the HEU hexafluoride being made into uranium metal which was machined into weapon pits. By the late 1980s Pakistan began advertising its nuclear potential by publishing technical articles on centrifuge design, including a 1987 article co-authored by A. Q. Khan on balancing sophisticated ultracentrifuge rotors.
Operating at full capacity, Kahuta is estimated to have the potential to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for as many as 3 to 6 weapons each year. But the gas centrifuge plant has been plagued by chronic delays. As of 1984 there were reportedly approximately 1,000 centrifuges operating at the facility. By 1991 about 3000 machines were thought to be operating with a production capacity of 30-50 kg U-235/year, enough for 2-3 implosion weapons a year.
In 1988 the US and Pakistan reached an informal understanding, which according to US officials went into effect in 1993, under which Pakistan agreed to freeze production of bomb-grade HEU indefinitely, and to refrain from enriching uranium to a level above 20% U-235. Prior to the 1998 nuclear tests, the US had reportedly obtained intelligence indicating that Pakistan had stopped production of bomb-grade uranium. However, following the tests A.Q. Khan claimed that Pakistan had never stopped making bomb-grade HEU during the 1980s and 1990s, and reportedly US officials said "we don't have enough information" to conclude that Pakistan was not making weapons-grade HEU. As of mid-1998 estimates of Pakistan's HEU inventory ranged between 100 and 500 kilograms. Assuming that Pakistan would need about 20 kilograms for a single weapon, Pakistan's stockpile might be estimated at between 5 and 25 weapons.
In early 1996 it was reported that the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory received 5,000 ring magnets, which can be used in gas centrifuges, from the China National Nuclear Corporation, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation, a state-owned corporation. The US intelligence community believed the magnets were for special suspension bearings at the top of the centrifuge rotating cylinders. The shipment was made between late 1994 and mid-1995 and was reportedly worth $70,000. The ring magnets would allow Pakistan to effectively double its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production. Pakistan has operated the plant only intermittently, and little information is publicly available concerning annual or total production of weapon-grade uranium at Kahuta.
The Kahuta facility has also been a participant in Pakistan's missile development program. Pakistan operates a ballistic missile research center at Kahuta along with its uranium enrichment operation. KRL has successfully developed and tested Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles based on liquid fuel technology and its associated sub systems. Saudi Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz toured the Kahuta facility in May 1999, possibly in connection with purchases of the Ghauri missiles.
KRL has also undertaken many other defense projects of national importance to enable Pakistan to become self-reliant in various sophisticated weapon systems and to save valuable foreign exchange. These projects include:
- Surface-to-Al-Anti-Aircraft Guided Missiles - Anza Mk 1, and Anza Mk-II.
- 'Baktar Shikan' Anti-Tank Guided Missile Weapon System.
- Anti-personnel Mine Sweeping Line Charges.
- Anti-Tank Mine Clearing Line Charge-Plofadder-195 AT.
- Laser Range Finder.
- Laser Threat Sensor
- Laser Actuated Target
- Laser Aiming Device
- Add-On Reactive Armour Kit
- Anti-Tank Ammunition-Armour Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discordin Sabot (APFSDS)
- Remote Control Mine Exploder (RCME)
- Digital Goniometer
- Power Conditioners for Weapon Systems for TOW ATGM Weapon System, "Baktar Shikan" Weapon System, "ANZA" Training Missile System
- Switched Mode Power Supplies for LAADS Radar, Skyguard Radar, Air Defense Automation System.
- Tow Missile Modules
Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan is being honoured by President Farooq Leghari, 1996.
Despite his role Khan was never in charge of the actual development of atomic bombs, mathematical and physics calculations, and eventual weapons testing. Outgoing General Zahid Ali recommended Munir Khan appointment as the scientific director of atomic bomb project. This appointment came as a shock to Khan and surprised many in the government and the military as Munir Khan was not known to be aligned to conservative military. The government itself restricted to provide full scientific data of atomic projects and had him required the government security clearance and clarifications of his visits of such secret weapons development sites, which he would be visiting with senior active duty officers.
In 1984, the KRL claimed to have carried out its own nuclear cold test of a nuclear weapon, but this was seemed to be unsuccessful while PAEC under Munir Khan had already carried out another test in 1983, codenamed: Kirana-I.
PAEC's senior scientists who worked with him and under him remember him as "anegomaniacal lightweight" given to exaggerating his scientific achievements in centrifuges. At one point, Munir Khan said that, "most of the scientists who work on the development of atomic bomb projects were extremely "serious". They were sobered by the weight of what they don't know; Abdul Qadeer Khan is a showman." During the timeline of atomic bomb project, Qadeer Khan pushed his research into rigorous theoretical physics calculations and topics to compete, but yet failed to impress his fellow theorists at PAEC, generally at the physics community. In later years, Abdul Qadeer Khan had became a staunch critic of Munir Ahmad Khan's research in physics, and on many different occasions tried unsuccessfully to belittle Munir Khan's role in the atomic bomb projects. Their scientific rivalry became public and widely popular in the physics community and seminars held in the country over the years.