American and international investigators say that they have found the electronic blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon on computers that belonged to the nuclear smuggling network run by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist, but they have not been able to determine whether they were sold to Iran or the smuggling ring’s other customers.
The plans appear to closely resemble a nuclear weapon that was built by Pakistan and first tested exactly a decade ago. But officials have said that the weapons design was far more sophisticated than the blueprints discovered in Libya in 2003. Those blueprints were for a Chinese nuclear weapon that dated to the mid-1960s, and investigators found that Libya had obtained them from the Khan network.
But the latest design found on Khan network computers in Switzerland, Bangkok and several other cities around the world is half the size and twice the power of the Chinese weapon, with far more modern electronics, the investigators say.
The design is in electronic form, they said, making it easy to copy — and they have no idea how many copies of it are now in circulation. Investigators said the evidence that the Khan network was trafficking in a tested, compact and efficient bomb design was particularly alarming, because if a country or group obtained the bomb design, the technological information would significantly shorten the time needed to build a weapon.
Dr. Khan’s illicit nuclear network was broken up in early 2004; President Bush declared that shattering the operation was a major intelligence coup for the United States. Since then, evidence has emerged that the network sold uranium enrichment technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, and investigators are still believe that he may have done business with other countries.