Nuclear Issues

8 Items

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The History of Highly Enriched Uranium Production in China

| July 2017

China initiated its nuclear weapon program in 1955 and began to construct its fissile-material production facilities in the late 1950s. China has produced highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons at two complexes: Lanzhou gaseous diffusion plant (GDP, also referred as Plant 504) and Heping GDP (the Jinkouhe facility of Plant 814).

In 1958, China started the construction of the Lanzhou plant with advice from Soviet experts. Moscow withdrew all its experts in August 1960, however, forcing China to become self-reliant. On January 14, 1964, the GDP began to produce 90% enriched uranium, which made possible China’s first nuclear test on 16 October 1964.

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The History of Plutonium Production in China

| July 2017

China has produced plutonium for weapons at two sites: 1) Jiuquan Atomic Energy Complex (Plant 404) in Jiuquan, Gansu province. This site includes China’s first plutonium reactor (reactor 801) and associated reprocessing facilities. 2) Guangyuan plutonium production complex (Plant 821), located at Guangyuan in Sichuan province. This “third line” site also included a plutonium reactor (reactor 821) and reprocessing facility. While China has not declared officially that it has ended HEU and plutonium production for weapons, it appears that China halted its HEU and plutonium production for weapons in 1987.1

Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Cost of Reprocessing in China

| January 2016

Faced with the twin pressures of a still-quickly growing economy and unprecedented smog from coal-fired plants, China is racing to expand its fleet of nuclear power plants. As it does so, Beijing is considering making large capital investments in facilities to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and recycle the resulting plutonium in fast neutron reactors that breed more plutonium. This report outlines the enormous costs China would likely face if it decides to build large-scale plants for reprocessing plutonium from spent nuclear fuel and recycling the plutonium in fast neutron reactors.

Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

China's Uranium Enrichment Capacity: Rapid Expansion to Meet Commercial Needs

| August 20, 2015

Based on satellite imagery, Chinese publications, and discussions with Chinese experts, This report suggests that China has much more civilian enrichment capacity than previously thought, and even more is on the way. If these new estimates are correct, China has enough enrichment capacity to meet its nuclear power fuel requirements for the coming decade and beyond. Further, China will have excess enrichment capacity and will likely become a net exporter of commercial enrichment services.

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

A WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East: Creating the Conditions for Sustained Progress

| December 2012

How can the states of the Middle East begin to create the political conditions for achieving sustained progress toward the elimination of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons? This paper examines the challenges and obstacles that the parties of the region will need to overcome to bring a WMD-free zone into force, and recommends near-term steps for improving regional security.

A nuclear power plant in Beijing

Bret Arnett, CC licensed

Policy Brief

China’s Nuclear Energy Industry, One Year After Fukushima

| Mar. 05, 2012

It has been one year since the disastrous nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. Experts now view Fukushima as the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

In the aftermath, the Chinese government promptly reaffirmed that nation’s nuclear energy policy. Yet China also became the only nation among all major nuclear energy states that suspended its new nuclear plant project approvals. Before it would restart approvals, China said it would:

1) Conduct safety inspections at all nuclear facilities

2) Strengthen the approval process of new nuclear plant projects

3) Enact a new national nuclear safety plan

4) Adjust the medium and long-term development plan for nuclear power

Where is China on this path, and what is the future of its nuclear power industry?

Report - International Panel on Fissile Materials

The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy

  • Frank N. von Hippel
  • Anatoli Diakov
  • Ming Ding
  • Tadahiro Katsuta
  • Charles McCombie
  • M.V. Ramana
  • Tatsujiro Suzuki
  • Susan Voss
  • Suyuan Yu
| September 2010

In the 1970s, nuclear-power boosters expected that by now nuclear power would produce perhaps 80 to 90 percent of all electrical energy globally. Today, the official high-growth projection of the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Developments (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) estimates that nuclear power plants will generate about 20 percent of all electrical energy in 2050. Thus, nuclear power could make a significant contribution to the global electricity supply. Or it could be phased out — especially if there is another accidental or a terrorist-caused Chernobyl-scale release of radioactivity. If the spread of nuclear energy cannot be decoupled from the spread of nuclear weapons, it should be phased out.

The No.1 and No. 2 reactors at the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in Lianyungang city, China, 22 Mar. 2009. The Tianwan power plant is designed to have eight reactors.

AP Photo


China's Current Spent Fuel Management and Future Management Scenarios

| July 2010

China's recent nuclear energy ambitions have put it in the forefront of research and development in the nuclear industry.This paper will first discuss the status of China's current spent fuel management methods and storage capability. Second, this paper will estimate and calculate the accumulated spent fuel and required spent fuel storage up to 2040 based on three different nuclear development scenarios. Third, future spent fuel management scenarios from now to 2040 are designed and financial costs and proliferation risks are evaluated and discussed associated with each scenario. Last, policy recommendations will be provided for the future spent fuel.