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|Thursday, October 04, 2001, updated at 11:02(GMT+8)|
Debris, Weeds Shadow China's Nuclear Weapon SiteCrumbling factory walls sprawl amid the sand, weeds and grazing sheep at this desolate spot on the Tibet-Qinghai plateau, giving China's first nuclear weapons research center the odd look of an ancient ruin.
The code-named No. 221 Plant of the China Nuclear Industry Corporation is 101 kilometers from Xining, capital of the northwest province of Qinghai, and 3,200 meters above sea level.
When it opened in 1958 it was regarded as a mysterious and forbidden zone, covering an area of 1,170 square kilometers. To the outside world, it was known as the Qinghai Mine.
Now the local government has erected billboards near the site to attract tourists.
Dotting one wall of a geometrically shaped building surrounded by reinforced cement structure are the holes researchers peered through to observe the nuclear testing explosions. The dilapidated site at present was the former No. 6 Factory of the base, called the "shooting range."
Some hundreds yards away is the famous "No. 1 Pit in Asia," where nuclear waste is buried.
Insiders say that the Chinese government has organized experts to thoroughly clean the testing area with special chemicals over the following two years. The team has already buried waste materials over an area of 5,400 square meters.
The government has spent some three billion yuan (370 million U. S. dollars) ensuring the waste removal to meet strictest international standards, they say.
The ruined factories are now open to sightseers, who know little about how such places operate. The No. 4 Factory is totally covered by weeds. Nearby, sheep nose about for food. Another site looks like a telecommunications and command center. Only farmers collecting grass to feed their pigs can be seen.
Through this bleak scene winds a rusted railway, on which a special train once carried China's first atom bomb to its test field in a remote desert.
The No. 18 A Zone was the assembling plant of China's nuclear weapons. Now it is a hog farm, where hogs and dogs howl at the sight of strangers intruding on their domain.
In the center of the zone is a red-brick, six-storey building, the "generals' tower," where the "fathers" of China's nuclear movement, Wang Ganchang, Zhu Guangya, Deng Jiaxian and Zhou Guangzhao, put their imaginations to reality.
Not far from there stands a tall granite monument, on top of which is a model atom bomb made of steel. The inscription on the monument reads: "This is the place where China's first nuclear bomb was born and China's first hydrogen bomb was successfully researched. On October 16, 1964, China exploded its first atom bomb, declaring to the world that the Chinese nation finally had its atom bomb, making a great contribution to breaking the nuclear monopoly and safeguarding world peace."
It says that over the past 30 years China has successfully launched 16 nuclear tests there, and developed a number of types of strategic nuclear weapons.
All of China's nuclear tests were carried out with strict safety protection, causing no radioactive harm to anyone.
In 1996, China announced a temporary suspension of nuclear testing in a move toward nuclear disarmament.
Since 1996, the nuclear test center has received 300,000 tourists. The local government is discussing ways to repair the ruined factories and build power, chemical and aluminum plants to develop the local economy.
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