ANNEX E: Nuclear Weapons Research and Development Production and Related Facilities

Research and Development and Production Facilities

Three major nuclear weapon-related facilities have been identified in China: The Koko Nor complex in Tsinghai Province, the Wu-shiht'ala installation north of the Lop Nor test site in Sinkiang Province, and a newly discovered complex near Tzu-t'ung in Szechwan Province. Our knowledge of both the Tzu-t'ung and Wu-shiht'ala facilities is based entirely on overhead photography. In the case of Koko Nor, we have a considerable amount of communications intelligence which confirms the existence of a nuclear complex in the area, but our under standing of its specific functions and capabilities is based entirely on analysis of overhead photography.

The interrelationships among these three complexes are not clear. Koko Nor is the major nuclear weapons R&D center in China and, up to the present at least, it has been the major weapons fabrication center as well. It has facilities for high explosive and fissile component production, general component (cases, electrical systems) production, final weapons assembly, HE component testing, and environment testing.

The identification of the Tzu-t'ung complex as a nuclear weapons fabrication center rests on the presence there of many revested buildings and three HE test points similar to those at Koko Nor, the overall size of the installation, and the pattern of dispersal of the facilities. It is difficult to determine the operational status of the complex at this time because most of the available photography is small scale. It did appear to be complete in early 1971 and some portions could have been available for use as early as 1968. While precise analysis of the functions of Tzu-t'ung must await higher resolution photography, it seems clear that the complex represents a major increase in China's weapons fabrication capabilities. It is possible that the Tzu-t'ung complex was built to provide strategic duplication and dispersal for both R&D and production. There is some evidence the Chinese attempted to reduce the vulnerability of the complex to bombing. They have strung the buildings along narrow valleys and meticulously minimized the disturbance of the local terrain features and agricultural patterns. Koko Nor, on the other hand, is highly visible.

The Wushiht'ala installation - built between 1965 and 1970 - is clearly involved in R&D, not in production, its specific functions are not known. Most of the operational structures in the complex are for personnel use, and could house offices, laboratories, light engineering work, and classrooms. The proximity of the Wushiht'ala installation to the Lop Nor test site suggests that it may be involved in a variety of scientific and engineering activities supporting the test program. We do not know where the Chinese fabricate the nuclear components (uranium and plutonium components) for nuclear weapons. It may be done at Koko nor, Pao Tao and/or Yumen.

Two new facilities in southeast China will significantly increase the PRC capability to produce both enriched uranium and plutonium. Currently there is only one enriched uranium production facility, the Lanchou Gaseous Diffusion Plant. This facility is estimated to be producing weapons grade U-235 at a rate of from 150 to 330 Kgs per year. Modifications underway at Lanchou are expected to increase the plant's capability; however, the great increase in U-235 production will be from the new gaseous diffusion plant at Chinkouko. This facility is presently under construction and will probably be fully operational by late 1974. At that time it is estimated that Chinkouho will be producing from 750 to 2450 Kgs of U-35 per year.

In addition to the original reactor at Yumen, the Chinese are also building a second very similar, plutonium reactor and chemical seperation plant near Kuangyuan This facility could begin production in mid-1973, and should have the same plutonium production capacity as the Yumen reactor, 300-400 Kg per annum.

A second possible nuclear weapons fabrication complex has also been identified near Tzu-t'ung. This is in north central China and there is a third facility at Pao-tou which also may be producing nuclear components for weapons.

The reasons behind all of this expansion are various. First, they may be laying the foundations for future expansion -- the most likely explanation. Secondly, the interior location clearly shows that dispersal was and probably still is one of the prime motives. The original facilities at Lanchou, Yumen, and Koko Nor were built with Soviet help, but they are all located close to the Soviet border and are highly visible and vulnerable to air strikes. The new facilities in the Chinese heartland will require hostile bombers to make a deep penetration of Chinese air defenses. To make the Tzu-t'ung complex even less vulnereble, the Chinese have strung out the buildings along the narrow valleys, making them more difficult to find and hit. Finally the great increase in production capacity in these different locations suggests that the Chinese may be attempting to develop a redundant capability.

The additional nuclear production facilities will make China the third largest nuclear power in the world. However, even with the present increase in their nuclear production capacity, the Chinese would still have to increase their stockpile capability considerably to match the number of warheads of either the US or the USSR. It is doubtful that the Chinese would attempt such a move to parity in the next ten years. Thus, until additonal new nuclear facilities, beyond those which the Chinese are now completing, become evident they will not have enough nuclear warheads to alter the balance of nuclear forces between the PRC and the US and the USSR.

Nuclear Weapons Control, Storage, and Logistics

How the Chinese will control, store, and handle nuclear weapons for their strategic forces is not clear. It is assumed that the authority to use strategic nuclear weapons would be reserved by the highest authority in Peking. But there is no evidence to support this assumption nor to permit the identification of any special communications network related to the command and control of nuclear weapons.

The evidence of the system to be developed for storage and handling of nuclear weapons - from which it might be possible to infer something as to command and control - is still very limited. Only one stockpile site for the storage of nuclear weapons has been identified so far. This site consists of three vaults in a ridge about 12 nm from the Koko Nor weapons fabrication complex. Some of this space is probably used for nuclear weapons inspection and retrofit.

The size of these storage facilities and their proximity to a major weapons production facility suggests that the Koko Nor site is intended to serve as a central stockpile. At present, any weapons shipped from this stockpile would have to travel over an all-weather natural surface road 12 miles Koko Nor and some 50 n.m. further by rail to Hsining before transfer to air transport would be possible.

Bomb Storage

Operational storage sites for nuclear bombs at airfields have not beer identified in China. The Chinese practice of placing many of their aircraft storage and maintenance facilities underground hamper identification of nuclear weapons storage facilities. The Chinese have already utilized temporary type facilities to assemble and check out nuclear devices during their test program (at the Wushihtlala and Shuang-ch'eng-tzu airfields), and it is not possible at this time to rule out the possibility that some nuclear weapons may already be dispersed to temporary, non-identifiable storage facilities at the TU-16 capable air fields around China.

Missile Warhead Storage

No facilities constructed specifically, to store missile warheads have been identified in China. With deployment of operations, missile units the Chinese probably will provide facilities at the missile site or with the unit for check out and mating of the warhead and possibly for separate or temporary storage.

It is not yet clear whether the Chinese will keep nuclear warheads with missile units continuously or keep them in a central stockpile or stockpiles, delivering them to operational units only in times of crisis. Missiles deployed at soft sites will probably not be continuously on alert, and the Chinese could design a logistics system to rapidly deploy warheads from nearby stockpiles to these sites, while the missiles were being readied. Missiles in hard sites can be kept at a higher state of readiness for extended periods, and when silo deployment begins the Chinese almost certainly will keep warheads at the sites oron the missiles.