Challakere in Karnataka has come under limelight not for its importance as a hub for travel buses enroute to
Bangalore but for a fencing area under the Defence ministry, purported to be the nuclear city of future to
generate the country’s nuclear power for submarines, weapons and even hydrogen bombs.
The US magazine Foreign Policy has quoted a former PMO official closer to the project details, which it said may
trigger competition from neighbouring nuclear powers China and Pakistan as well to build similar underground
The write-up claimed that the secret nuclear underground factory was kicked off in 2012 when the Congress
government was in power at the Centre and the BJP was in power in the state of Karnataka. So, it cannot be made a
political issue now but a mutually consented project underway for the national interest.
The 14-page report said Challakere project will be the “subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear
centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities when it’s completed,
probably sometime in 2017”.
The project was expected to widen the country’s nuclear research, produce fuel for nuclear reactors, and to power
the navy’s fleet of new submarines, said the article published in the Foreign Policy journal. The site is 203km northeast of Bangalore and in May 2009, the Karnataka state government had secretly leased 4,290 acres Challakere for scientific and nuclear use, said other reports.
“But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent
experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used
in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those
in its existing nuclear arsenal,” the report said.
Currently, India has 110 nuclear war heads compared to 120 in Pakistan and 260 in China, according to the defence research entity the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
It quoted former White House official Gary Samore who said, “I believe that India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China.”
Other reports said the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRSO) is also building a test center in the cordoned area which will have a 3-mile long runway for a new generation of drones and long distance unmanned reconnaissance vehicles. The report also said Mysore nearby in Karnataka again was in use for rare materials or plutonium for nearly a decade.
The former PMO source also told the magazine that the “thermonuclear bomb programme” was to “develop a new generation of more powerful megaton weapons” if it was to maintain “credible minimum deterrence”.
But a probe into the matter by think-tank the Center for Public Integrity, after interviewing local residents, senior and retired Indian scientists and military officers connected to the nuclear program, and foreign experts and intelligence analysts, said the facility may partly open next year. The local residents, unaware of the project, are apprehensive about the fall-out of the project on local environment and agriculture.
The centre said spokesmen for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), involved in the Challakere project declined to comment.