Top experts warn India’s H-bomb a dud

Top Indian defense and nuclear scientists have issued warnings of serious deficiencies in India's thermonuclear weapons capability.

A group comprising some of India’s top defense and nuclear scientists have issued warnings of serious deficiencies in India’s thermonuclear weapons capability and have urged the government to urgently set up an expert panel to oversee measures to rectify these failings.

The scientists, who make a literal who’s who of India’s nuclear and defense research establishment, have claimed in their statement that the the fusion device tested during Pokhran II on May 11, 1998 failed to create a crater and rendered a very low yield. “…the fusion device failed on many counts – very low yield, no crater etc,” they say, also adding, “A detailed report submitted by DRDO (Defense Research Development Organization) to the Government fully corroborated its original assessment ,viz. ,that, while the fission device worked successfully as expected, the fusion device did not.”

“The articles by K Santhanam and Ashok Parthasarathi in ‘The Hindu‘ (September 17 , 2009) and PK Iyengar in `Outlook’ (October 26, 2009) go into considerable technical detail and present a credible case, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the H – bomb tested on May 11, 1998 failed.”

This comes after a line of similar warnings issued recently by many in Indian defense and nuclear scientific community, with some even recommending that India carry out further testing to valid its thermonuclear devices.

“These findings are extremely serious for the security of the nation, particularly in the context of our pronouncement of being a nuclear weapon power, along with our enunciated doctrine of ‘no first use’ and our ‘unilateral voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing’. They strike at the root of our weaponisation capability and compromise our strategy of Credible Minimum Nuclear Deterrence,” say the experts, who are listed below as signatories.

They also urge measures to shore up India’s thermonuclear capabilities. “We are well aware of the nature, sources and scales of nuclear threats the nation faces. To meet that threat effectively, an in-depth analysis of our real capabilities in terms of: Command & control systems, nuclear weapon delivery systems and the types, character and numbers of nuclear weapons needing to constitute our nuclear arsenal and the keeping of that arsenal up-to-date, is essential – indeed acutely pressing,” they say.

They also prescribe a course of action, saying, “We therefore, strongly urge the government to immediately set up a high-level, independent, broad- Based Panel of Experts to define and monitor the implementation, on a continuing b sis, of an effective course of action, in the realm of thermonuclear weapons, so central to our national security.”

The experts apprehend renewed US pressure on India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). “The renewed pressure from Obama on us in recent months to sign the CTBT is causing the issue of our signing the CTBT to be raised again. We strongly urge the present government to remain firm in its opposition to our doing so as the Prime Minister has publicly assured the nation more than once in recent months.

They also say that India was under tremendous pressure after the 1998 tests, to sign the CTBT, and almost succumbed. “Soon after the Pokhran-II tests, the then government almost succumbed to the western pressure to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) backing off only at the last moment due to an outcry in the country against doing so. The refusal of the US Senate to ratify the CTBT then released the pressure on the government.”

Signatories to the Statement

Dr. PK Iyengar, former Chairman Atomic Energy Commission, Director BARC and a key architect of the Pokhran I nuclear test of May 18, 1974.

Professor Ashok Parthasarathi, former Scientific Adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Dr. AN Prasad, former Director, BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Center) and Member (R&D) of the Atomic Energy Commission, a Senior Adviser to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna for many years and a key member of our original weapons grade plutonium extraction technology development dating back to 1960;

Dr. K Santhanam, Chief Adviser (Technologies), DRDO and Project Coordinator of the Pokhran II tests.

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan, a Technology Director in the Indian nuclear submarine project (Advanced Technology Vessel or ATV – INS Arihant) and former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

Dr. CK Mathews, former head, Radio Chemistry Division, BARC and Director Chemistry Group, Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam.

Dr. Jaipal Mittal, Raja Ramana Fellow and former Director, Chemistry Group, BARC.

Dr. AD Damodaran, former Director, Special Materials Plant, Nuclear Fuel Complex and former Director, Regional Research Laboratory, Thiruvananthapuram.

Dr. SR Valluri, former Director, National Aerospace Laboratory and first Director General of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) (organization set up to design and develop the Light Combat Aircraft – Tejas).

Captain S Prabhala, Indian Navy, former Chairman & Managing Director Bharat Electronics Limited.

Rear Admiral JJ Baxi, Indian Navy, former Director, Weapons and Electronics Systems Organization, Ministry of Defense and Chairman & Managing Director Bharat Electronics Limited.

Brigadier MR Narayanan, Indian Army, former Director, Army Radio Engineering Network, Ministry of Defense

Dr. KS Jayaraman, formerly of the Nuclear Physics Division, BARC, Science Correspondent of the Press Trust of India, South Asian Science Correspondent the journal Nature and President, Indian Science Writers Association.

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Follow Saurabh Joshi on Twitter @ http://www.twitter.com/saurabhjoshi Saurabh is a journalist based in New Delhi, India who has worked in print, television as well as internet news media. Besides defense and strategy, his past assignments have included reporting from Kashmir, coverage of terror strikes as well as election coverage from all over India. He has a Bachelors degree in Journalism (Honors) as well as a law degree (LLB), both from the University of Delhi.
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