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India releases pictures of nuclear tests

May 17, 1998
Web posted at: 2:22 p.m. EDT (1822 GMT)
First pictures of the underground nuclear tests  

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India on Sunday released pictures of the five nuclear tests it conducted last week, showing the arid desert sites where the underground explosions took place.

Called the Shakti (power) campaign, it involved two big explosions, including a thermonuclear "hydrogen bomb" explosion, and three smaller blasts involving a nuclear yield of below one kiloton.

Top scientists who led the program addressed a news conference, where the government released photographs and showed a video of the blasts as well as providing scientific details of the tests.

The video footage shook violently during the main explosion.

The first blast involved a yield of 12 kilotons, and the second, a thermonuclear device, 43 kilotons, (almost three times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima) the government said in a statement.

The three others had a yield of less than one kiloton.

The first three were exploded on May 11 and the other two tested on May 13 in the Pokhran range of the northwestern state of Rajasthan, some 600 km (360 miles) from the state capital, Jaipur.

Village near where the nuclear tests were conducted  

A photo taken after the first blast showed crater-like slopes formed by the explosion in a vast stretch of rocky land dotted with bushes and surrounded by debris consisting of iron rods and tanks.

The second one, the biggest blast, was at a site one km (0.6 mile) away, and showed a few shrubs and metallic debris piled up on a sandy stretch.

The third blast site showed a grassy desert patch with debris encircled by a fence. The other two tests were conducted on a sand dune.

"The tests... have provided critical data for the validation of our capability in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields for different applications and different delivery systems," Indian scientists said in a statement.

A defense expert, K. Subrahamanyam, told CNN, "the low yield is usually used for battlefield weapons, missiles and even artillery shells."

The nuclear tests evoked condemnation from Western nations and resulted in economic sanctions from the United States, Japan and Canada.

An India Foreign Ministry official said Saturday that U.S. sanctions alone would cost the Indian economy $1 billion a year.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the scientific adviser to the Defense Minister and head of Department of Atomic Energy and the Defense Research and Development Organization, told a news conference that India's program could not be "throttled" by sanctions.

Residents complain of sickness

Several residents of Khetolai village near the test site complained of nose-bleeds, skin and eye irritation, vomiting and loose bowels since the blasts, the Sunday Statesman newspaper reported.

Local authorities told Reuters last week there had been no complaints. Scientists said there was no harmful radioactivity from the "contained" nuclear tests.

New Delhi Bureau Chief Anita Pratap and Reuters contributed to this report.


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