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404 Plant
Jiuquan Atomic Energy Complex
40°15'N 97°21'E

The Jiuquan Atomic Energy Complex (Plant 404) is centered on a 400-500MW light water graphite reactor [LWGR[ fueled with natural Uranium. The facility includes a pilot plutonium reprocessing plant and a large-scale reprocessing plant with a capacity of 300-400kg Pu/yr (both use PUREX method). It also includes a Nuclear Fuel Processing Plant for refining plutonium into weapons-usable metals.

Construction of a plutonium production complex at Jiuquan [Yumen, not at 39°36'N 94°58'E as otherwise reported], in Kansu Province, was started in 1958 or 1959. A suspected graphite-moderated water-cooled reactor at this location was first photographed by American intelligence satellites in 1962 and again in February 1964. At the latter date the reactor apparently was not operational, though it may have been shut down for change of fuel elements and hence it was possible, though by no means certain in the eyes of US intelligence, that the reactor might have been operational in 1962. Construction continued steadily for at least the next decade and operation of the large plutonium chemical separations plant position of the complex commenced in the latter part of 1970.

In the late 1960s as part of the "third line" effort to relocate critical defense infrastructure in the relatively remote interior, China built new [allegedly underground] facilities supplement the plutonium production reactor at Jiuquan [third line plutonium production reactor at Guangyuan ], the design and fabrication facility at Haiyan [third line design and fabrication facility at Mianyang ], and the gaseous diffusion plant at Lanzhou [third line plutonium processing facility at Yibin ]. In addition to the original plutonium production reactor at Jiuquan, the Chinese built a second very similar plutonium reactor and chemical separation plant at Guangyuan [Kuangyuan]. This facility began production in mid-1973, with approximately the same plutonium production capacity as the Jiuquan reactor of 300-400 Kg per annum.

The SverdNIIKhimmash research institute in Yekaterinburg entered into a contract with China, May 1995, to supply equipment for an oxalate plutonium refinement unit to be based at a military enterprise in the Gansu Province, which is shifting to civil-oriented production. China issued a certificate of end user and end use, pledging never to use the equipment for military purposes and for nuclear explosions but to recycle spent nuclear power plant fuel. Experts of Russia's Ministry of Nuclear Power Industry are sure that the Russian equipment cannot be used by that particular project to obtain arms plutonium. The Chinese partner agreed to obtain government guarantees of the technologies used to civil-oriented purposes only and to give acess to the plant for inspections by Russian experts.

Photographic Evaluation Report

High resolution imagery is presently available only from declassified CORONA imagery. As of 01 May 2000 no Russian 2-meter resolution KVR-1000 imagery is available via the SPIN-2 service on TerraServer, nor was any archival Space Imaging IKONOS 1-meter imagery available on the CARTERRA™ Archive.

Sources and Methods

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Friday, May 12, 2000 12:00:01 AM