China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE)

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Last Updated: September 29, 2011
Other Name: 中国原子能科学研究院; Institute 401 (四零一医院); China Academy of Atomic Science; Institute of Modern Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); Physics Institute of CAS; Atomic Energy Institute (AEI) of CAS; Code Name “601”
Location: Tuoli, 35 km south of Beijing in "China Nuclear Town"
Subordinate To: China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)
Size: 3,000 personnel, including 600 senior research and engineering technical staff, and 110 advisors for PhD students [1]
Facility Status: Operational

China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) is the main research organization of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). It conducts research and development in nuclear physics, reactor engineering, nuclear technology, plutonium extraction, and uranium isotope separation and is involved in the research, development, and application of nuclear and radiation science and technology. [2]

Under the dual leadership of the Second Ministry of Machine Building and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, from 1960 to 1963 the institute researched and produced over ten tons of UF6 for the gaseous diffusion plant at the Lanzhou Uranium Enrichment Plant. [3] The institute also developed the uranium enrichment process installed at that facility. [4]

The former Soviet Union provided the institute with a 7MW heavy water moderated/cooled research reactor (HWRR) that went online on 27 September 1958. After being shut down in 1978 for refurbishing, it went online again in 1980 with a renewed core using 3 percent enriched uranium (instead of the previous 2 percent), to upgrade the reactor’s maximum output, and the new designs produced three to five times more radio-isotopes than before. [5] CIAE shut down the reactor permanently in 2007 after 49 years of operation. [6]

CIAE plays a leading role in China’s efforts to develop and deploy commercial fast reactors. In July 2011, CIAE said its 25MW fast breeder reactor was successfully connected to the grid, and that it was part of a “three-step” path to the eventual deployment of commercial fast reactors. [7] As part of a separate track, in October 2009 CIAE signed an agreement with Russia's Atomstroyexport to start a pre-project and design work for a commercial nuclear power plant with two BN-800 fast neutron reactors (referred to as Chinese Demonstration Fast Reactors). CIAE is working through joint ventures on the project, and construction is expected to start in 2013 at Sanming city, an inland part of Fujian province. [8]

[1] “我院概况 [Summary of Our Institution],” China Institute of Atomic Energy,
[2] “Key Research Fields,” China Institute of Atomic Energy,
[3] John W. Lewis and Xue Litai, China Builds the Bomb (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), pp. 98-100.
[4] Rodney Jones and Mark McDonough, Tracking Nuclear Nonproliferation (Washington, D.C., Carnegie, 1998), p. 66.
[5] Yan Kong, “China’s Nuclear Bureaucracy,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, 1 July 1993, p. 324.
[6] James Bodgener, “China’s New Industry,” Nuclear Engineering International, 28 July 2008, p. 22.
[7] Yanmei Xie, “China Pushes Forward with Fast Reactor Program,” Nucleonics Week, 28 July 2011, p. 1.
[8] “Nuclear Power in China,” World Nuclear Association,

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