India Is Building a Top-Secret Nuclear City to Produce Thermonuclear Weapons, Experts Say
The sensitivity of the Challakere project became clearer after the Environment Support Group legal team filed a lawsuit in 2012 at the High Court of Karnataka, demanding a complete accounting of pastureland being seized by the authorities — only to learn from the state land registry that local authorities had granted the Indian army 10,000 acres too, as the future home for a brigade of 2,500 soldiers. The State Reserve Police, an armed force, would receive 350 acres, and 500 acres more had been set aside for a commando training center. The nuclear city would, in short, be ringed by a security perimeter of thousands of military and paramilitary guards.
The military-nuclear park in the kavals, at nearly 20 square miles, has a footprint comparable in size to the New York state capital, Albany. After analyzing the images and conducting interviews with atomic officials in India, Kelleher-Vergantini concluded that the footprint for enrichment facilities planned in the new complex would enable scientists to produce industrial quantities of uranium (though the institute would only know how much when construction had progressed further). As Kelley examined photos of the second site, he was astonished by the presence of two recently expanded buildings that had been made lofty enough to accommodate a new generation of tall, carbon-fiber centrifuges, capable of working far faster to enrich uranium than any existing versions.
Nuclear experts express the productiveness of the enrichment machines in Separative Work Units (SWUs). Kelley concluded that at the second site, the government could install up to 1,050 of these new hyper-efficient machines, which, together with about 700 older centrifuges, could complete 42,000 SWUs a year — enough, he said, to make roughly 403 pounds of weapons-grade uranium. A new hydrogen bomb, with an explosive force exceeding 100,000 tons of TNT, requires only between roughly 9 and 15 pounds of enriched uranium, according to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, a group of nuclear experts from 16 countries that seek to reduce and secure uranium stocks.