Defence Ministry Dismisses Scientist’s Pokhran II Claim

Rejecting senior DRDO scientist K Santhanam’s assertion that the 1998 Pokhran II tests were not completely successful, Union Defence Minister has claimed that India has a meaningful number of nuclear weapons and an effective delivery system to go with it.

TV channel said quoting sources in the ministry that India has a nuclear deterrent that is adequate for its security.

Director for 1998 test site preparations, Santhanam, in an interview, had said that in the test, the yield of thermonuclear explosions was actually much below what had been expected and that the tests were perhaps more a ‘frizzle’ than a big bang, the term used to describe a test that fail to meet the desired yield.

The scientist claimed that the yield for the thermonuclear test, or hydrogen bomb in popular usage was actually lower than what had been claimed. In addition, he stressed that keeping in mind this fact, India should not rush into signing CTBT.

He laid stress for the need to go for more tests to better country’s nuclear weapon programme.

It should be noted that after Pokhran II, the yield was claimed to be 45 kilotons (KT), which was challenged by western experts, according to whom, it was not more than 20 KT.

The exact yield of the thermonuclear explosion is significant from the view point that the nuclear scientists, at the time of heated arguments on Indo-US nuke deal, had claimed that India need not more tests for weapon programme. Moreover, it was said that the disincentives the nuclear deal imposed on testing would not really matter as further tests were not required.

Bharat Karnad, security expert, termed Santhanam’s admission as remarkable, saying that this is the first time a nuclear scientist and one closely associated with the 1998 tests has disavowed the government line.

“This means the government has to do something. Either you don’t have a thermonuclear deterrent or prove that you have it, if you claim to have it,” said Karnad.

The yield of the thermonuclear device test in 1998 has led to much debate and while western experts have stated that it was not as claimed, BARC has maintained that it stands by its assessment.

Indian scientists had claimed after the test that the thermonuclear device gave a total yield of 45 KT, 15 KT from the fission trigger and 30 KT from the fusion process and that the theoretical yield of the device (200 KT) was reduced to 45 KT in order to minimise seismic damage to villages near the test range.

British experts, however, later challenged the claims saying that the actual combined yield for the fission device and thermonuclear bomb was not more than 20 KT.

Sources claim that Santhanam had admitted that the test was a fizzle during a discussion on CTBT organized by IDSA.

India conducted five nuclear tests at the Pokhran test range. Three of them were conducted on May 11 and two on May 13, 1998.

Rajagopala Chidambaram headed the team, which conducted tests, and the device was developed at the Defence Research and Development Organization’s Ballistics Research Laboratory.

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