Reports & Papers

43 Items

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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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.

A satellite view of Shigatse, Tibet, home to the PLA’s 6th Border Defense Regiment, near the China-India border.

Maxar Technologies / CNES Airbus via Google, used with permission

Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Strategic Postures of China and India: A Visual Guide

| March 2020

Fueled by aggressive rhetoric from both capitals, Indian and Chinese ground forces engaged in a standoff between June and August 2017. The Doklam crisis, as it became known, stimulated introspection among officials and experts in both states about the future of their relationship. Politically, both strategic communities largely concluded that the peaceful resolution of border disputes is now less likely, forecasting more rivalry than cooperation. Militarily, Indian discussions on the strength of its military position against China in their disputed ground frontier areas have converged on the view that China holds the conventional and nuclear edge over India in this domain.

Based on our analysis of data on the location and capabilities of Indian and Chinese strategic forces and related military units, we conclude that this assessment of the balance of forces may be mistaken and a poor guide for Indian security and procurement policies. We recommend that instead of investing in new nuclear weapons platforms that our analysis suggests are not likely to be required to deter China, New Delhi should improve the survivability of its existing forces and fill the gap in global arms control leadership with an initiative on restraint and transparency.

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Paper - Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

On China's Closed Fuel Cycle Strategies

| July 2018

As it expands its fleet of nuclear power plants, China faces an important decision: whether to make large capital investments in facilities to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and recycle the resulting plutonium in fast neutron reactors, or continue to store nuclear fuel, leaving for the future decisions on whether to reprocess the fuel or dispose of it as waste. In reaching a decision, policymakers should consider financial costs, the available fuel supply, nuclear security and proliferation risks, health and environmental dangers, and spent fuel management issues. This paper will first discuss the status of China’s breeder reactors and civilian reprocessing programs. It will then examine the costs and fuel supply issues associated with reprocessing.

Paper - Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy

Stabilizing Sino-Indian Security Relations: Managing the Strategic Rivalry After Doklam

| June 21, 2018

The paper provides a detailed analysis of the contemporary Sino-Indian conventional ground and nuclear force balances and carefully reconstructs how mutual developments in these areas are perceived by both New Delhi and Beijing.

Report - International Panel on Fissile Materials

China’s Fissile Material Production and Stockpile

| January 2018

China began producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium for nuclear weapons in the 1960s and is believed to have halted production the 1980s. Despite the passage of thirty years there has been no official policy declaration in this regard. This report uses newly available public information from Chinese sources to provide an improved reconstruction of the history of China’s production of HEU and plutonium for nuclear weapons. This allows improved estimates of the amount of HEU and plutonium China has produced and of its current stockpiles.

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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

Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Security Science, July 2015

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

When Did (and Didn’t) States Proliferate?

| June 2017

In this Project on Managing the Atom Discussion Paper, Philipp C. Bleek chronicles nuclear weapons proliferation choices throughout the nuclear age. Since the late 1930s and early 1940s, some thirty-one countries are known to have at least explored the possibility of establishing a nuclear weapons program. Seventeen of those countries launched weapons programs, and ten acquired deliverable nuclear weapons.