Sunday, October 22, 2023

Abdus Salam and the Pakistan Nuclear Weapons Program

After my conversation with Bharat Karnad about the Indian nuclear arsenal I became curious about Pakistan's nuclear program. 

I came across this historical analysis:

Abdus Salam: A Reappraisal. Part II Salam's Part in the Pakistani Nuclear Weapon Programme
Salam's biographies claim that he was opposed to Pakistan's nuclear weapon programme. This is somewhat strange given that he was the senior Science Advisor to the Pakistan government for at least some of the period between 1972 when the programme was initiated and 1998 when a successful nuclear weapon test was carried out. I look at the evidence for his participation in the programme.

Salam shared the Nobel Prize with Glashow and Weinberg. He is a leading theoretician, although many have questioned what, exactly, was his contribution to the formulation of the electroweak theory of particle physics that Glashow and Weinberg contributed to.

Currently Pakistan's arsenal is ~200 warheads and similar in size to India's. Their largest warhead is estimated to have a yield of ~40kt, compared to ~20kt for the Indians.

What interested me the most was Salam's role in the early stages of the project.

See the paper for more interesting details. Previously I was only aware of Riazuddin through his academic publications, not his weapons work.

I mentioned to Karnad that I had been surprised that some of the Iranin theoreticians assassinated by Israel over the last 10-15 years had quite abstract research interests. They didn't seem the type to be working on bombs - but I suppose you never know! 

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