Level of radioactive contaminants in China's 'atomic bomb city' found lower than national average

12:22, April 03, 2011      

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A town known as China's "atomic bomb city" became a tourist destination after minor radioactive contaminants found there were treated and found to be lower than the average national level.

Nuclear radiation levels were found to be safe in the town of Xihai, located in the Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China's Qinghai Province. The town was built on the site of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)'s Factory 221, where China's first atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb were created, said Wang Xinmin, head of the Qinghai Provincial Radiation Environment Administration. Qinghai Province was a nuclear weapon development base for 37 years.

Factory 221, China's first nuclear weapon development site, was built in 1958 and closed in 1987. Recordings of the factory's radiation levels were included in the National Early Warning Radiation Monitoring System. The amount of money spent to monitor the factory reached 200,000 yuan (about 30,500 U.S. dollars) annually, Wang said.

The site's more highly radioactive contaminants were sent to a national radioactive contaminant disposal field after initial treatment, while minor radioactive contaminants were buried safely nearby, forming Asia's largest radioactive material storage area, Wang said.

Seven monitoring wells were built to monitor radioactive materials in the air, water and land. Xihai started attracting more tourists after employees of the nuclear base moved out in 1995, Wang said.

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