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Thursday, June 12, 2008

China keeps secret the quake damage to radioactive facilities

China is keeping a tight lid on the extent of damage caused by the recent earthquake to military radioactive sources.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported May 30 that Chinese authorities only announced some damage to sources of nuclear radiation, including small facilities like cement plants.

“Because Sichuan is the most important area for China's military nuclear industries and nuclear research, if those sources of radioactivity were to be damaged, they could cause further harm hundreds of thousands of times greater than the cement plants and other sources of radioactivity addressed by the official announcement,” the center said. “Yet China is still keeping the status of damage to these major sources of radioactivity a secret.”

China’s chief military authority, the Central Military Commission, currently is investigating quake damage to nuclear warhead storage facilities, nuclear missile launch silos and nuclear raw material storage plants.

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Inspections of nuclear industrial sites, research institutes and nuclear factories are being led by Li Ganjie, vice minister of state environmental protection administration. The PLA’s General Armament Department is also involved.

The center warned that “if military sources of radiation were damaged, they could emit radiation hundreds of thousands of times greater than the civilian sources addressed in the official announcement.”

Damage to defense facilities remains secret, it said.

Among the facilities in the earthquake zone in Sichuan are the Nuclear Industry 821 factory in Guangyuan, Sichuan, that produces nuclear reactor furnaces and nuclear fuel plates.

Others include the Nuclear Industry 814 factory in Leshan, Sichuan, which produces nuclear raw material, and the Nuclear Industry 816 factory in Fuling, Sichuan, which is preparing to rebuild a nuclear power station.

China is investing $115.5 million and using 20,000 PLA troops to excavate a mountain that will house a nuclear factory near the former 816 factory, which “is still buried a great deal of nuclear material.”

Nuclear Industry factory 857 in Jianguo, Sichuan, “produces atomic bombs,” the report said. The former 221 nuclear facility in Mianyang also contains buried nuclear material. The 585 nuclear institute at Leshan, Sichuan, is a nuclear fusion research institute. The 902 research institute in Mianyang is a nuclear weapons research institute, while Mianyang 839 is a nuclear industrial base, the report said.

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