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Key Issues Nuclear Weapons The Basics Chinese Nuclear Weapons Facilities

Nuclear Weapons Research, Development, Testing, Production and Naval Nuclear Propulsion Facilities: China

Baotou (Pao-t'ou)

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The materials and component production facility at Baotou includes a small air-cooled reactor with capacity to produce about 10 kilograms of plutonium per year. In late 1964 US intelligence estimated that this reactor went into operation in late 1963 or early 1964 [it might have gone into operation earlier though this was judged unlikely]. As of September 1963, construction was continuing throughout the site, including some fairly substantial work around the building which houses the reactor. Photography of March 1964 indicated that major construction at the site --including service roads and additional security provisions- - had apparently been completed. The US estimated that, even if no major obstacles were encountered, it would have taken the Chinese at least 18 months, and more likely two years, after the starting up of the Baotou reactor before a nuclear device would be ready for testing, and that the earliest possible date for testing would be mid-1965. Initially US intelligence estimated that the first Chinese nuclear weapons test in October 1964 used Plutonium from this facility, though subsequent analysis of the debris from the test immediately demonstrated that the first Chinese nuclear weapon used Uranium, which led the US intelligence community to realize that the U-235 plant at Lanzhou had in fact become operational sooner than anticipated.

Beijing (Peking)

Chengxian (Ch'eng-hsien)

Chongqing (Ch'ung-ch'ing)


Donghunangyuan (Tung-hua-yuan)

A long-range Very Low Frequency [VLF] radio transmitter is located here.
The "nuclear" Fuzhou is the other Fuzhou, not the coastal city with a population of 1.66 million which lies on the north bank of the Minjiang river.

Guangyuan (Kuang-yuan)
In addition to the original plutonium production reactor at Jiuquan [Yumen], the Chinese buildt a second, very similar, plutonium reactor and chemical separation plant at Guangyuan [Kuangyuan]. This facility began production in mid-1973, with approximately the same plutonium production capacity as the Yumen reactor of 300-400 Kg per annum.

Haiyan (Hai-yen / Koko Nor)
The Haiyan [Hai-yen] or Koko Nor complex in Qinghai [Tsinghai] Province was the major nuclear weapons R&D center in China and, up to the early 1970s it was the major weapons fabrication center as well. This large nuclear stockpile site and nearby weapons development complex had facilities for high explosive and fissile component production, general component (cases, electrical systems) production, final weapons assembly, HE component testing, and environment testing.

China's first nuclear weapons research and development facility, located along side the Qinghai Lake in Haiyan County, was built in 1958, and given the formal designation of State Plant 221 , also known as the Qinghai Provincial Mining Zone. China's first atomic bomb and first hydrogen bomb were successfully developed there, hence the local name "two-bomb base." Under the direction of by Marshal Nie Rongzhen, between 1958 and 1964, the facility developed China's first atomic bomb, and two years later the first Chinese hydrogen bomb. The 1,100 square kilometer base was a closed city, and all activities of its personnel were conducted within the facility.

The facility includes 560,000 sq. m of buildings inside plant premises, 330,000 sq. m of production buildings, more than 40 km of special railway lines which converge with the Qinghai- Tibet Railway Line, nearly 80 km of standard highways, 1,000 six-digit computer-controlled telephones, and one thermal power plant with an annual generating capacity of 110 million kwh.

In 1987 the State Council approved the closure of the facility, and personnel were gradually shifted to other facilities. The former facility has become the seat of the Haibei Zang Nationality Autonomous Prefecture Government of Qinghai Province. In June 1994 the Beihai Autonomous Prefecture signed a transfer contract with the China National Nuclear Industry Corporation. The Haibei Autonomous Prefecture Government designated the site as a "small zone for national economy development"

DF-3 training also has been observed at Haiyan, indicating continued Chinese reliance on the older IRBM.

Heiping (Chin-k'ou-ho / Chinkouko)
A new gaseous diffusion plant at Heiping [Chinkouko] facilitated a great increase in U-235 production. The facility was under construction in the early 1970s and was fully operational by late 1974. It was estimated that Heiping could producing from 750 to 2450 Kgs of U-235 per year.



Jiuquan (Yumen / Subei)
Construction of a plutonium production complex at Jiuquan [Yumen, not at 39°36'N 94°58'E as otherwise reported], in Kansu Province, was started in 1958 or 1959. A suspected graphite-moderated water-cooled reactor at this location was first photographed by American intelligence satellites in 1962 and again in February 1964. At the latter date the reactor apparently was not operational, though it may have been shut down for change of fuel elements and hence it was possible, though by no means certain in the eyes of US intelligence, that the reactor might have been operational in 1962. Construction continued steadily for at least the next decade and operation of the large plutonium chemical separations plant position of the complex commenced in the latter part of 1970. In addition to the original plutonium production reactor at Jiuquan, the Chinese built a second very similar plutonium reactor and chemical separation plant at Guangyuan [Kuangyuan]. This facility began production in mid-1973, with approximately the same plutonium production capacity as the Jiuquan reactor of 300-400 Kg per annum.

Lanzhou (Lan-chou)
The Chinese capability to produce enriched uranium was initially confined to a single enriched uranium production facility, the Lanzhou Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Construction of this gaseous diffusion plant probably began in 1957, and it probably commenced operation in 196 or 1963. This facility was estimated to be producing weapons grade U-235 at a rate of from 150 to 330 Kgs per year in the 1960s. Modifications underway at Lanzhou in the early 1970s increased the plant's capacity.

The Lanzhou complex consists of three facilities:

Lanzhou Gaseous Diffusion Plant, producing 375 kg of U-235 annually in the mid-1970s

Helanshan Center No. 1 gas centrifuge plant, producing 80-90% enriched U-235, which entered service in 1969

Helanshan Center No.2 gas centrifuge plant, which entered service in the mid-1970

Lianxian (Lin-hsien)

Lop Nor
US satellite intelligence imagery of 6-9 August 1964 showed that the previously suspect facility near Lop Nor in Sinkiang was almost certainly a nuclear testing site. Developments at the facility include a ground scar forming about 60 percent of a circle 19,600 feet in diameter around a 325-foot tower (first seen in April 1964 photograph), and work on bunkers near the tower and instrumentation sites at appropriate locations is underway. The outward appearance and apparent rate of construction indicated that the site could be ready for a test in two months or so. The characteristics of the site suggested that it was being prepared for both diagnostic and weapon effect experiments.

China, Lop Nur nuclear test site, 20 Oct 64 --- In October 1964 China joined the nuclear club by conducting its initial atomic test at Lop Nor, in western China. This was the prelude to a series of increasingly sophisticated test shots which continued up to 1996. All known Chinese nuclear weapons tests were conducted at the Lop Nor Test Site.

Mianyang / Zitong (Mien-yang / Tzu-t'ung)
The initial identification by US intelligence of the Mianyang [Tzu-t'ung] complex as a nuclear weapons fabrication center restedon the presence there of many revested buildings and three HE test points similar to those at Koko Nor, the overall size of the installation, and the pattern of dispersal of the facilities. It was initially difficult to determine the operational status of the complex because most of the available photography was small scale. It did appear to be complete in early 1971 and some portions could have been available for use as early as 1968. While precise analysis of the functions of Mianyang awaited higher resolution photography, it seemed clear in 1972 that the complex represented a major increase in China's weapons fabrication capabilities. The Mianyang complex was built to provide strategic duplication and dispersal for both R&D and production. There is some evidence the Chinese attempted to reduce the vulnerability of the complex to bombing. They have strung the buildings along narrow valleys and meticulously minimized the disturbance of the local terrain features and agricultural patterns. Koko Nor, on the other hand, is highly visible.


Tongxian (T'ung-hsien)


Xi'an (Sian / Hsi-an)

Yibin (I-pan)