India's nuke enrichment plant expansion operational in 2015: IHS

Published: June 20, 2014
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File photo of a nuclear power plant. PHOTO: FILE

File photo of a nuclear power plant. PHOTO: FILE

NEW DELHI: India is expanding a covert uranium enrichment plant that could potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons, a defence research group said on Friday, raising the stakes in an arms race with China and Pakistan.

The revelation highlights a lack of nuclear safeguards on India under new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while sanctions-bound Iran faces minute scrutiny in talks with world powers over its own nuclear programme.

New units at the Indian Rare Metals Plant would boost India’s ability to produce weapons-grade uranium to twice the amount needed for its planned nuclear-powered submarine fleet, IHS Jane’s said.

The facility, located near Mysore in southern India, could be operational by mid-2015, the research group said, basing its findings on analysis of satellite imagery and public statements by Indian officials.

“Taking into account all the enriched uranium likely to be needed by the Indian nuclear submarine fleet, there is likely to be a significant excess,” Matthew Clements, editor of IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, told Reuters.

“One potential use of this would be for the development of thermonuclear weapons.”

No comment was available from the Indian government press office or the foreign ministry.

“Completion of the second enrichment plant at Mysore will exacerbate the nuclear arms race in South Asia,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Unlike Iran, India is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. New Delhi tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974, provoking international sanctions that barred it from importing nuclear technology and materials.

It conducted tests again in 1998 that drew a quick response from Pakistan, triggering an arms race between the neighbours, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947.

A civil nuclear cooperation deal with the United States, sealed in 2008, gave India access to know-how and fuel in return for a pledge – so far unfulfilled – to bring in US firms to expand India’s nuclear power generation capacity.

The pact exempts military facilities and stockpiles of nuclear fuel from scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations watchdog.

The Mysore plant is not subject to IAEA safeguards. The IAEA declined to comment. The exemption, granted by the administration of President George W. Bush, faced opposition from China and Pakistan, India’s regional rivals, and European nations who said it would undermine efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons.

Satellite view

Based on its analysis of commercial satellite images, IHS Jane’s has identified what appears to be a new uranium hexafluoride plant that would increase the uranium enrichment capacity of the Mysore facility.

The plant would be able to produce a surplus of around 160 kilos a year of uranium enriched to 90% purity, IHS Jane’s reckons. That is roughly double the needs of the nuclear submarine fleet that India is developing to supplement its land-based missile arsenal – and enough to make five atomic bombs.

By blending the uranium with its existing stock of plutonium, India could develop thermonuclear weapons that have a complex detonation process and have a bigger impact than simpler weapons.

“Whether or not India uses the plant mainly for fuel for reactors and naval vessels as is sometimes surmised, it adds to India’s already far greater advantage over Pakistan in terms of nuclear weapons production potential,” said Fitzpatrick at IISS.

“It also brings India closer to matching China, which is how most Indians would probably see it.”

The IHS findings have been corroborated by other analysts, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) writing this week that the Mysore facility could signify India’s intent to move towards thermonuclear weapons.

India is estimated by SIPRI to hold 90 to 110 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

The IHS assessment revealed incremental progress at Mysore since the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), in a report last December, identified the construction of a new gas centrifuge plant.

India’s new Arihant class of submarine is assessed to have an 80-megawatt onboard reactor that contains around 65 kg of uranium. One submarine is operational, a second is being built and a third is planned, according to ISIS.

No first use

Modi, leader of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has sought to assert New Delhi’s regional leadership in his first weeks in office while seeking to engage with major powers such as the United States and China.

But, although he invited Pakistan’s prime minister to his inauguration, Modi has made clear that any rapprochement would require a halt to occasional military clashes on the de facto frontier of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Before Modi’s landslide general election victory last month, sources close to his party had suggested India might abandon its ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine, which committed it to refrain from any pre-emptive strike.

Modi later denied any planned shift and vowed to uphold ‘no first use’, a signature policy of India’s last BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who ordered the 1998 nuclear tests.

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Nihar
    Jun 20, 2014 - 4:43PM

    I am sure we will use nuclear power for peaceful purpose. And I dont think any country in the world is in a position to question India.Infact US itself came running to India and gave us CIVIL- NUCLEAR deal.Now Russia,Japan, Austrailia etc are giving us Uranium. The reason is they completely trust us. And this trust is built over long years.So cheers!!

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  • ModiFied
    Jun 20, 2014 - 5:03PM

    What is wrong if India is going to add more nuclear devices ? Does world expect India to be run over by Islamic Jihadis ? Indian know how the west is playing double game. India has to defend itself in this cruel world.

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  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Jun 20, 2014 - 6:22PM

    India will never like to use the dirty bomb to become the ditrtiest nation of the world . This will be used only when our survival will be on stake .

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  • Waseem
    Jun 20, 2014 - 7:01PM

    Indians commenting on this page are just nuts :D
    get a life guys

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  • Indian
    Jun 20, 2014 - 7:08PM

    India never had an AQ Khan. That explains the trust part.

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  • Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks
    Jun 20, 2014 - 7:15PM

    @Dr.A.K.Tewari:
    Your survival will be at stake, who is going to challenge India’s survival, your survival may be challenged by rampant population growth and poverty and that should worry you, not your neighbors. Starting nuclear wars are self destructive for India as well for her neighbors. Pakistanis also say the same very thing because they are the smaller neighbor and record is self evident when India took over by force Kashmir, Goa, Bhutan and interfered in Sri-lanka, Nepal and Bangla Desh, on the other hand I don’t see China doing the same.

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  • John B
    Jun 20, 2014 - 7:34PM

    If one reads the reporting properly, all it confirms is that India is developing her one of the plants, which was a well publicized announcement long time ago.

    The rest of the story is based on pure conjecture and opinion that the plant could or would or can be used for weapons arsenal. The entire story is based on the myopic view of defense use without reporting on the India’s nuclear program.

    India has a three tier nuclear program designed in 1950s by the famous nuclear scientist Homi Baba with the objective of using thorium as fuel which is abundant in India. The program is called breeder reactors in which India leads in the research. The breeder reactors were ignored for a long time by other nuclear powers who took the route of dual use approach during the cold war. But everyone today are in agreement that the breeder reactors are the way to go to solve the energy crisis.

    There is not enough uranium available in this world whereas thorium can power the world for millennia. To power the breeder reactors one need the seed uranium /plutonium and so the first step in the process is to have enriched uranium, and that is the aim of these plants.

    Weapons are always incidental to any nuclear program, but the question is what is one going go do with the knowledge gained? Build more bombs or use the knowledge to solve the energy need as charted out in the three tier program?

    Hyped news is good to sell an opinion to a receptive audience but hype is not truth. India is building nuclear reactors on her scheduled target towards thorium reactors. Defense use will always be incidental and one cannot avoid it, but will India pile the weapons as USA and Russia and UK and France did? That is the hype in this article.

    Even if India wants to do it, her three tier program needs the enriched uranium for breeder reactors more than the new weapons. So, we can ease in our seats that India is not going to stockpile anymore weapons.

    I advise readers to read about India’s three tier program which is a public knowledge and discussed in India parliament. The easing of nuclear import restriction is based on this understanding, and India signed an agreement with Australia to import uranium ore after the easing.

    As for as which country is going to build India’s power stations, it is partly political, partly based on liability insurance of the operators and partly commercial. The Indian consortium headed by TATA is building a plant indigenously developed by Indian scientists naturally and France secured another contract, and the US and UK are trying hard to win a contract but the parliament is sticking to the liability conditions.

    If India does not build nuclear power plants to meet her energy demands, the global oil price will sky rocket in the 21st century and that is a reality.

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  • Vivek Nigam
    Jun 20, 2014 - 7:44PM

    Its good that India is raising its nuclear weapons, after all its a sign that the country is progressing forward.

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  • Jun 20, 2014 - 8:09PM

    @Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks:

    I think its apt to state India’s poverty figures here, before any Pakistani starts accusing India of negligence.

    http://data.worldbank.org/country/india

    India poverty in 1994 : 45%
    Inda poverty in 2012 : 22%

    All these years India’s poverty has actually dropped! Nuclear weapons are a very small part in India’s GDP.

    Lets look at Pakistan.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/181361/economic-survey-2010-11-has-the-real-poverty-rate-hit-43/

    Pakistan’s real poverty rate is 43%!!

    Increase in poverty in Pakistan coincides with increase in nukes.

    You say Pakistan has nukes because India has them. So, in a way India is responsible for the increase of poverty in Pakistan.

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  • Indian reader
    Jun 20, 2014 - 8:12PM

    @Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks: We Indians are neither worried about our neighbours nor the challenge of growing population and poverty. India is moving in the right direction and our poverty percentage has come down to 22% in 2012. You can google the facts if you want to. Anyway thank you for your concern.

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  • Dady
    Jun 20, 2014 - 8:28PM

    @Indian:
    Indian past record proves various kinds of security lapses regarding various nuclear plants and the related sensitive materials. In this context, events of nuclear theft, smuggling and killing have become a regular feature of Indian atomic plants which still continue in one way or the other.

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  • Indian Muslim
    Jun 20, 2014 - 8:30PM

    @ Naeem Khan – ‘I don’t see China doing the same’ – Really!! so you are ok with chinese treatment of Muslims in Xinjing province then. Thanks dude

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  • Saba
    Jun 20, 2014 - 8:36PM

    @Nihar: (for Instance… Australian Newspaper perfectly mentioned their trust in following paragraph…..)
    “There should be no sales of Australian uranium to India unless every aspect of uranium handling – from licensing of facilities to safe disposal – is first class.

    But India is a long way from first class in that respect. Its auditor-general has castigated the country’s nuclear regulator on just about every aspect of its functions: from supervision of licensing, registration of nuclear radiating machines and sites, inspections, monitoring, policy development and safety standards, to emergency response and verification of the disposal of nuclear waste. It found not only was there no national policy on nuclear and radiation safety after almost 30 years, but there appeared to be little impetus to adopt world standards and best practices. “

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/editorial/indias-uranium-safeguards-fail-on-all-measures-20121016-27p1y.html#ixzz35C54lAvw

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  • Manoj
    Jun 20, 2014 - 8:47PM

    @Naeem Khan, Sir, Since partition India’s population increased 4 times, Bangladesh 5 times, Pakistan 6 times, inspite of much more minorities fleeing to India from both sides, & Bangladeshis too (or else they might’ve been 6 too).. & also inner demographics are a concern to me- an atheist too. I’m sure India(natural resources) can support more density than Pakistan(not Bangla).
    Thankfully our poverty’s decreasing too, I read in some comments here that it increased in Pakistan(not sure).
    You forgot about Tibet,2 parts of Kashmir,,now Paracel islands,S.China sea,future Taiwan,outer mongolia,Arunachal Pradesh,etc. There are now 12million Han & 6 million Tibetians in TIBET. Same’s with Uighurs. India didn’t do that, & I would oppose any such move. What should’ve been of Goa?its Sikkim not Bhutan.
    I don’t wanna mention 1971,Baloch. I tried to find situation before 1989 in Kashmir,when foreigners got in,& ofcourse Taliban got free too. Others pls mention.
    & India has more than Pakistan(smaller country as you mention) to think about.Recommend

  • Matteo
    Jun 20, 2014 - 8:59PM

    The world community needs to persuade the Indian policymakers to review such dangerous and uncanny policy parameters which could have disastrous consequences for the whole region and might ignite a new nuclear arms race in South Asia.

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  • saleem hatoum
    Jun 20, 2014 - 9:17PM

    India is a great country where there is ZERO poverty and the women are protected as an endangered species. To protect these two hallmark of civilization they need to have nuclear weapons?

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  • Zaima
    Jun 20, 2014 - 9:21PM

    In one way, the Pakistani position is the more honest one. No first use policies reflect the acceptable hypocrisy of good manners, rather than the authentic appreciation for bad manners. Nuclear armed states may despise each other, but that is not necessarily a reason to use nuclear weapons. No first use, in a sense, is the rhetorical question since no state genuinely wants to be the first one to pull the trigger.

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  • Manoj
    Jun 20, 2014 - 9:23PM

    @Dady, Nuclear safety(radiation,accidents) should be improved(don’t know about Pakistan). Pakistan definitely needs much more Nuclear Security(military) than India, since the Taliban can attack them anytime. City with more robbers needs more cops.Recommend

  • Indian Muslim
    Jun 20, 2014 - 9:30PM

    @Saba – Article is from 2012, Australia reversed its stand, started selling uranium in 2013. India has regulation’s and policy to protect its nuclear power industry and open to IAEA inspection. Companies like GE, Westing house supported by US, Japan, Australia, EU are in negotiation to build and sell nuclear power plants to India. Please get your knowledge updated, Its is a good thing.

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  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Jun 20, 2014 - 10:21PM

    yes India should worry about the population growth . In your country the work is being done by Terrorists .

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  • Zaid Hamid lal topi wala
    Jun 20, 2014 - 10:29PM

    India is definitely building these nukes for the sole super-power Pakistan. Talks about Energy deficit,China,submarines are all drama.Recommend

  • Javelin
    Jun 20, 2014 - 10:31PM

    @Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks:
    … rampant population growth….
    This only happens in Muslim countries like Pakistan.

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  • Lols
    Jun 20, 2014 - 10:35PM

    @Manoj:
    Man you are hilarious… Indian nuclear cites are more vulnerable to Naxal terrorists….

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  • Lols
    Jun 20, 2014 - 10:42PM

    @Indian Muslim:
    Bla Bla Bla…… You Indians first plead for a source… and when someone slap you a source… you begin to talk in vampires language… Bla Bla Bla

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  • Moiz Omar
    Jun 20, 2014 - 10:57PM

    We need to do the same. We also need to increase the funding to DESTO, our defence science development agency.

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  • Indian Muslim
    Jun 20, 2014 - 11:18PM

    @ Lols – you cannot respond to an argument, if u want source Google it!. well you cannot do much with maddrassa education can u?

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  • I Bleed Blue
    Jun 21, 2014 - 12:26AM

    @John B: Such a knowledgeable post! I am going to post this and read it once again.

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  • Jun 21, 2014 - 12:43AM

    @Naeem Khan Manhattan,Ks: China not doing the same – did you check with Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. They may have different opinion about China.

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  • NotSoCommon
    Jun 21, 2014 - 12:52AM

    @Lols

    Well when you request for a source, you request for the latest one don’t you? And I have no idea what a “vamprire language” is but reading @Indian Muslim’s comment looks to me like a language of a healthy discussion or debate. Something which i figure is required a bit more in Pakistan, don’t you think?

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  • Nick Holding
    Jun 21, 2014 - 1:27AM

    Indian increasing missile system program and the illicit nuclear smuggling networks are posing global threat now, i wonder what India is going to offer Indians to eat? Uranium food law? At the Nuclear security summit 2014, the world joined their heads to somehow decrease the proliferation and strict the security of nuclear weapons from wrong hands. Increasing hidden Indian nuclear agendas pose a much greater threat if the terrorist organizations can get their hands on enriched weapons grade Uranium it is not difficult to get delivery system from weapons that can put sovereignty of many states at risk.Recommend

  • Candid1
    Jun 21, 2014 - 1:44AM

    This is a direct result of US-Indo nuclear deal. Therefore, the US and all other countries supplying India with nuclear materials will be directly responsible for destabilization or disaster brought on by Indian nuclear ambitions. Pakistan has an absolute right to take all measures it deems necessary to protect itself from Indian aggression.

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  • Jun 21, 2014 - 3:10AM

    india is going formre nukes that’s for sure.This happen when you elect far rightist parties like Bjp.

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  • ajeet
    Jun 21, 2014 - 10:30AM

    These are the best weapons to protect India against the barbarians amassing near our western borders. India has to increase it manifold times.

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  • truthbetold
    Jun 21, 2014 - 10:33AM

    @Candid1:

    “Pakistan has an absolute right to take all measures it deems necessary to protect itself from Indian aggression.”

    Yes of course. Pakistan should increase its defense and nuclear/missile program spending by a factor of ten to match India.

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  • truthbetold
    Jun 21, 2014 - 10:35AM

    @Nick Holding:

    “i wonder what India is going to offer Indians to eat?”

    The same grass that the Pakistanis have been eating for the past 40 years?

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  • sharabi
    Jun 21, 2014 - 10:39AM

    India will use this Nuclear fuel for Nuclear Powered Submarine fleets.
    Please add 1 more: “India will have Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier “INS VIRAAT” as well, Designs are under the approval.
    That will consume some extra Fuel. Simple
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INS_Vishal

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  • Ashraf
    Jun 21, 2014 - 3:57PM

    Pakistan needs to at least 8 times as many nukes as India. Only then will there be true parity. Inshallah, we will eat grass but we will have the atom bombs !!

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  • Jun 21, 2014 - 7:50PM

    @Zaima: Zaima actually its meant to put the fear of lord into your generals and bankrupt your nation in this competition to be ahead of us. And we have more or less achieved results already as seen by the state of your nation and its economy.

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  • Jun 21, 2014 - 8:11PM

    For anyone who cares to read between the line – Its war by other means as authored by the great Chanakya. India is not going to start a nuclear war or even a conventional one with anyone. We just cannot afford it and that is a gospel truth. Whatever results we desire through a war effort are already being borne without putting our boots on the enemy’s soil. The program is meant t bankrupt our enemy’s economy. Our policy makers know too well how the average Pakistani general thinks and the present policy is designed to keep the enemy mired in a political and economic morass, the direct consequence of an arms race with a bigger nation with a far stronger power and an economy six times the size of Pakistan.. The whole thing may sound ruthless. But then in the business of geopolitics, the word ruthless is the only mantra that counts,

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  • ETIM loyalist
    Jun 21, 2014 - 10:21PM

    @Indian Muslim: Well said! And as a reminder, we are being bombed even now by his government … and they claim that they are the world’s “Citadel of Islam” .. such a joke! What have we done to Pakistan and its people? Yet they want to kill us and our movement…

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  • Reddy
    Jun 22, 2014 - 3:10AM

    Pakistan has more per capita / per sq ft nukes than India yet it choses to talk about India’s proliferation.
    Pakistan has more poverty than India and yet it talks about Indian poverty.
    Pakistan has Asia’s largest slum in Karachi and yet it talks about Mumbai slums.
    Pakistan persecutes minorities big time and yet it talks about the state Muslims in India.
    Pakistan demolishes Hindu temples every day and yet it talks about Babri Mosque (happened 25 years ago) demolition every time.

    Nothing wrong with Pakistan, moving on…

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  • Manoj
    Jun 22, 2014 - 3:40AM

    @ lols .. Naxalites have nothing to do with nuclear sites. Do you think naxalites dream of blowing them up & killing innocent citizens?? Looking at the suicide blasts the terrorists do in mosques(of other sects)
    ,theatres,other civilian areas I don’t think they’re like naxalites… Nukes can be robbed.. Nuclear plants can’t be robbed, not even the material..

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  • Gram Massla
    Jun 22, 2014 - 7:23PM

    It is alleged that the human animal dominates the planet due to his ability to rationalize. But what is rational thinking? It is the ultimate costs benefits analysis. Therefore it is entirely rational that the strong will dominate and enslave the weak. Morality was invented to counter this sort of crass rationalist thinking and provide some form of protection for the weak.
    In this sorry subcontinent rationalism marries morality to justify stupidity. Even worse is the propensity for nihilistic and self destructive behavior.
    The spectre of nuclear destruction terrifies all and yet yields no ground to sound debate. Beyond the sub-continent the Euros strive mightily to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle for others( see Iran), a futile exercise.
    As morality weakens the planet hurtles towards destruction.

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  • Usman
    Jun 23, 2014 - 9:28AM

    Time for Nawaz Sharif to draft another Love Letter.

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  • Gurion
    Sep 10, 2014 - 9:51AM

    @saleem hatoum:

    India is a great country where there
    is ZERO poverty and the women are
    protected as an endangered species. To
    protect these two hallmark of
    civilization they need to have nuclear
    weapons?

    And Islam is a religion of peace.

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