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Guangyuan Plutonium Production Reactor and Reprocessing Plant

Last Modified: July 13, 2012
Other Name: Plant 821 (821厂); 中核四川环保工程有限责任公司 (Sichuan Environmental Protection Engineering Co., Ltd., CNNC)
Location: About 24km WNW of Guangyuan, Sichuan Province
Subordinate To: China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)
Size: Large facility
Facility Status: Operational; converted to civilian use

The Guangyuan complex is China's largest plutonium production reactor and reprocessing plant. It became operational around 1974 and was constructed as part of China’s "Third Line" efforts to duplicate the efforts of the Jiuquan plutonium production facility in Gansu Province.[1] Like Jiuquan, the Guangyuan Complex contained a graphite-moderated, water-cooled reactor suitable for the production of plutonium, and a reprocessing plant to separate the plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.[2] A nuclear weapon assembly facility may also be located at the Guangyuan site.[3]

Little is known about the power level and operating history of Guangyuan. The reactor is reported to have a similar design power but be slightly larger than the Jiuquan reactor. By the time it stopped producing plutonium by the late 1980s or early 1990s, the Guangyuan facility produced an estimated 1.1 tons of separated weapons-grade plutonium.[4]

By the late 1990s, China decided to decommission the Guangyuan site along with other military fissile material production sites.[5] As part of this process, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) restructured the company as the Sichuan Environmental Protection Engineering Co., Ltd, which specializes in decommissioning nuclear facilities, managing radioactive waste, and nuclear-related environmental protection research and development.[6]

Sources:
[1] David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, “Chinese Military Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium Inventories,” ISIS, 30 June 2005, www.isis-online.org.
[2] “Global Fissile Material Report 2010,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, 2010, www.fissilematerials.org.
[3] Robert W. Jones and Mark G. McDonough, Tracking Nuclear Proliferation: A Guide in Maps and Charts, 1998 (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1998).
[4] “Global Fissile Material Report 2010,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, 2010, www.fissilematerials.org.
[5] Mark Hibbs, “China Said to be Preparing for Decommissioning Defense Plants,” Nuclear Fuel, 17 May 1999, www.lexis-nexis.com.
[6] “企业简介 [Enterprise Summary],” Sichuan Environmental Protection Engineering Co., Ltd., 20 September 2011, www.zh821.com.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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