155 Items

YJ-18 missiles on display (Salah Rashad Zaqzoq/Wikimedia Commons).

Salah Rashad Zaqzoq/Wikimedia Commons

Report Chapter - International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility

China's Nuclear Weapons Strategy and Modernization Program

| Fall 2021

Recently published documents, news reports, and other sources of open source information indicate that China is accelerating its current nuclear force modernization programme. It is clear that it is driven largely in response to the growing United States (U.S.) missile defense program, which China perceives as a threat to its minimum credible deterrence. While China is not altering its nuclear doctrine, it believes that it needs to enhance the reliability, survivability, and effectiveness of its retaliatory capability in response to a first-strike. In addition to expanding the size of its nuclear arsenal, it is enhancing its delivery capabilities, for example, by increasing the number of ICBMs and making them more sophisticated. It is building more Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) warheads as well as a new class of ballistic missile submarines. China’s ongoing nuclear modernization aims to increase the survivability, reliability, safety, and penetration capability of its small nuclear arsenal and thereby assures a limited, reliable, and effective counterattack capability that will deter a nuclear first-strike. China’s nuclear modernization program will likely continue to be guided by its nuclear policy, which is characterized by a no-first-use pledge and a commitment to “minimum nuclear deterrence.” Finally, while China supports the total elimination of nuclear weapons, it does not believe it is in China’s interest to participate in discussions about nuclear disarmament until the U.S. and Russia reduce their arsenals to one thousand each, or lower.

The demo reprocessing and MOX facilities under construction at Jinta, Gansu. Satellite image from March 1, 2020 (Coordinates: 40.333750, 98.494167). Note that significant construction activities for reprocessing facility project II likely started after December 2020. This March 2020 image shows related ground preparations.

DigitalGlobe

Analysis & Opinions - International Panel on Fissile Materials

China starts construction of a second 200 MT/year reprocessing plant

| Mar. 21, 2021

Commercial bidding and purchase documents and other accounts suggest China is likely to start construction of a second spent fuel reprocessing plant of the same capacity and at the same site as its first such plant, the CNNC Gansu Nuclear Technology Industrial Park in Jinta, Gansu province.

Demonstration reprocessing and mixed-oxide facilities under construction in Gansu Province, China. Satellite image from August 29, 2019.

Maxar Technologies/Google Earth

Report Chapter - Nonproliferation Policy Education Center

China’s Uranium Enrichment and Plutonium Recycling 2020-2040: Current Practices and Projected Capacities

| March 2021

Since 2010, China has significantly expanded its indigenous enrichment capacity to meet the expected rapid increase of enrichment requirements. Meanwhile, China has expanded its plutonium reprocessing and recycling capabilities for “saving uranium.” The purpose of this report is to provide a better understanding of the development of China’s uranium enrichment and plutonium recycling programs.

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Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

China is speeding up its plutonium recycling programs

| July 20, 2020

Since 1983, China has had the objective of developing breeder reactors to run on recycled plutonium. Since 2004, it has been progressing through three stages of its plutonium recycling strategy: from pilot to demonstration to commercial facilities. At the first stage, in 2010, China began testing a pilot civilian reprocessing plant and running a small experimental fast reactor. Although those pilot facilities did not perform well, since 2015 China has moved forward to the second stage, which includes a demonstration reprocessing plant, a mixed-oxide fuel facility, and two demonstration liquid-sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactors. Recent satellite images and other information show construction of those demonstration facilities is actively underway. Meanwhile, the China National Nuclear Corporation is pushing toward the third stage by negotiating with France’s nuclear fuel cycle company Orano (formerly Areva) over the purchase of a large commercial reprocessing plant, and has proposed construction of large commercial fast-neutron reactors by 2028.

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Paper - Nonproliferation Policy Education Center

China’s Uranium Enrichment and Plutonium Recycling 2020-2040: Current Practices and Projected Capacities

| July 16, 2020

Since 2010, China has significantly expanded its indigenous enrichment capacity to meet the expected rapid increase of enrichment requirements. Meanwhile, China has expanded its plutonium reprocessing and recycling capabilities for “saving uranium.” The purpose of this report is to provide a better understanding of the development of China’s uranium enrichment and plutonium recycling programs.

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Paper - Institute for Nuclear Materials Management

Assessing China's Plutonium Separation and Recycling Programs

| July 2020

China pursues actively its closed fuel-cycle policy. In 2010, it began testing a pilot civilian reprocessing plant (50 tHM/year). In 2015, China began construction of the demonstration reprocessing plant (200 tHM/year). China has also been negotiating with France over the purchase of a commercial reprocessing plant with a capacity of 800 tHM/year. China’s Experimental Fast Reactor (20 MWe) started operation in 2010. Construction of the CFR-600 demonstration fast reactor began in 2017. This work will assess those plutonium separation and recycling programs. Further, it will estimate their cumulative plutonium production and discuss the potential uses of separated plutonium in China’s fast reactors over next two decades.

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Paper - Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

The Development Status of China's Uranium Enrichment

| July 2020

China leads the world in term of nuclear power development pace and new reactor construction. To meet the expected rapid increase of enrichment requirements, since 2010 the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has expanded significantly its indigenous centrifuge enrichment capacity. However, China does not officially release information on its enrichment capacity. Based on satellite imagery, Chinese publications, and discussions with Chinese experts, this work will examine the current status of China's uranium-enrichment development and offer significant new estimates of the capacity of China's operating enrichment facilities.

Chinese DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles

Voice of America/Wikimedia Commons

Book Chapter - Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

China's Nuclear Force Modernization

| June 2020

Since 2015 China has shown it is quickly modernising its nuclear force through adding more and “better” intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs).Based on Chinese publications and Western governmental and non-governmental estimates, this author estimates that in 2020 China has a total inventory of approximately 360±50 nuclear warheads. This stockpile is likely to grow further over the next decade as additional nuclear capable missiles become operational. In particular, China nuclear force modernization has been driven mainly by expansion in US missile defence programmes as many Chinese believe. China’s arsenal may be somewhat larger than France’s but is much smaller than the US and Russia.

Maxar Technologies and Google Earth

Maxar Technologies and Google Earth.

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Pinpointing China's New Plutonium Reprocessing Plant

| May 05, 2020

Over the last decade, China has been actively pursuing plans to recycle its spent nuclear fuel. In 2010, it began testing a pilot civilian plutonium reprocessing plant with a design capacity to produce about 50 metric tons of heavy metal per year at the Jiuquan nuclear complex in Gansu province (known as Plant 404). In July 2015, the China National Nuclear Corporation started construction of a larger demonstration reprocessing plant at the Gansu Nuclear Technology Industrial Park in Jinta, Gansu Province, about 100 kilometers from the Jinquan pilot plant. The demonstration reprocessing plant, which has a planned capacity of 200 metric tons per year, is to be commissioned in 2025.

A satellite image of Lanzhou Uranium Enrichment Plant in January 2015 (DigitalGlobe).

DigitalGlobe

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

The History of Fissile-Material Production in China

| Jan. 23, 2019

This article reconstructs the history of China’s production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons based on newly available public sources. It begins with discussion of China’s first set of fissile-material production facilities, which China started building in 1958. It then details the first and second “third-line” construction campaigns, initiated in 1964 and the late 1960s, respectively. Finally, the article considers the policy implications of the history of China’s fissile-material production, particularly its influence on China’s attitude toward negotiating a fissile-material cutoff treaty.