Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear warheads does India have?
India’s drive to develop a nuclear triad reached an important milestone in 2014 with the first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine deploying on its initial, brief, sea-trial voyage. Now, with several long-range ballistic missiles in development, the Indian nuclear posture is entering an important and dynamic new phase. After nearly two decades of concentrating on competition with Pakistan, India’s nuclear outlook now seems to be focused more toward its future strategic relationship with China.
India is estimated to have produced approximately 540 kilograms (kg) of weapon-grade plutonium (IPFM, 2013: 21), sufficient for 135 to 180 nuclear warheads; however, not all of the material has been converted into nuclear warheads. Based on available information about its nuclear-capable delivery vehicles, we estimate that India has produced 110 to 120 nuclear warheads. It will need more than that to arm new missiles it is developing. In addition to the Dhruva plutonium production reactor near Mumbai, India plans to construct a second reactor near Visakhapatnam, on the east coast. An unsafeguarded prototype fast breeder reactor is also under construction 650 kilometers (km) south at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) near Kalpakkam, which will significantly increase India’s plutonium production capacity once it becomes operational…
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The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.
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