China Admits to Nuclear Waste on Tibetan Plateau

Green Tibet – Annual Newsletter 1996
January 6, 2006

China Admits to Nuclear Waste on Tibetan Plateau


Tibetan Government-in-exile denounced China’s dumping of nuclear waste in Tibet way back in 1980s. In 1987 His Holiness the Dalai Lama released the Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet, the fourth point in this plan called for:

Restoration and protection of Tibet’s natural environment and the abandonment of China’s use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.

Tibetan government-in-exile’s consistent condemnation of China’s storing of nuclear waste in Tibet was reckoned with skepticism by the international media. The existence of nuclear waste was denounced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a press conference in Bangalore, India, in 1992. Beijing as usual, resolutely denied the existence of any nuclear waste dumping in Tibet. China’s Nationalities Affairs Commission subsequently issued a document stating that allegations of nuclear pollution from deployment of nuclear weapons and nuclear waste in Tibet were “totally groundless.”

However, recently China has admitted to dumping nuclear waste in Tibet. This admission is a big blow to Chinese integrity but bestows great credibility to the Tibetan Government-in-exile and Tibet Support Groups (TSG) all over the world. Further details follows:

Washington, D.C. (ICT), August 8, 1995 — For the first time, China has admitted to the existence of nuclear waste on the Tibetan plateau. An official Xinhua news report, published on 19th July 1993 said there is a “20 sq. m dump for radioactive pollutants” in Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture near the shores of lake Kokonor, the largest lake on the Tibetan Plateau.

The report claimed that the military nuclear weapon facility, which produced the waste had maintained an “excellent” safety record during its 30 years of operation, and that there had not been “any harm to the environment and no one at the base ever died of radiation.” “Nuclear waste pollution in the area is very low” and “many industries and ever increasing population of people are migrating into the area.”

The report did not give details as to how the nuclear waste was initial contained and how it is currently being maintained. It did say that the Chinese government spent a large amount of money from 1989 to 1993 to “strictly supervise the environmental conditions of this nuclear weapon base,” according to You Deliang, spokesman for the China Nuclear Industry Corporation.

A 1993 report, Nuclear Tibet, released by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Washington, D.C., documented reports by a local Tibetan doctor, Dr. Tashi Dolma of abnormally high rates of diseases in the nearby towns of Reshui and Ganzihe. The doctors also treated the children of nomads who grazed their animals adjacent to the nuclear base. Seven of whom died of cancer over-five-year period. The doctor was unable to pursue inquiries to determine the likelihood of a connection to the nuclear base.

The nuclear base, known as the “Ninth Academy” or “Factory 211” was China’s primary nuclear weapons research and production facility which produced all of China’s early nuclear weapons. ICT’s report Nuclear Tibet provided the first public in-depth account of the facility, and concluded that while the nature and quantity of the nuclear waste was unclear, its existence was undeniable. During the 1960s and 1970s, nuclear waste from the facility was disposed of in a roughshod and haphazard manner.

The decision to locate the facility on the Tibetan plateau was made by Li Jue, who had been a deputy commander and chief of staff of the Tibet Military Region in the years following the invasion of Tibet. The earliest known reference to the facility in the West was in a 1966 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report which referred to a “Koko Nor nuclear weapons center.” Even though the Chinese government is now acknowledging the existence and role of the facility, the CIA told ICT that the existence of records pertaining to the facility remains classified.

The Xinhua article said that the nuclear base, which used to have 1,170 sq. km. of forbidden zone, only appeared as grassland on ordinary maps. This nuclear weapons facility happened to be decommissioned in 1987, the year the Dalai Lama called upon China to make Tibet a nuclear free zone. In 1993 the same nuclear production center was shifted to Tso-ngon province (Qinghai Province) and gave the responsibility of maintaining it to the Tso-ngon Province Administration.

DIIR, Dharamsala, 26th July, 1995-A United Daily News report dated 10th July, 1995 from Taiwan says that on May 15th China made a public announcement that it is closing the nuclear weapon production at Tso-ngon (Qinghai) Province of Eastern Tibet.

According to official Chinese news agent Xinhua, today the base is the world’s first retired research and production base for nuclear weapon, this site is now occupied by factories, shops, hospitals and local houses and birds are known to nest in the area.

However, Office of Research & Analysis of HH the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala tells a different story. It said, “The above nuclear production center being transformed into “factories” seems certain. But still these “factories” are secretly guarded by Chinese security personnel round the clock. Therefore, local Tibetans strongly feel that a further investigation is necessary to see whether the closing announcement is really true or not.”

Still many nuclear missiles remain stationed on the Tibetan Plateau. A report by the National Resource Defense Council, Washington, D.C., on 24th March 1994 states that China currently has nuclear missiles stationed on the Tibetan Plateau at least three sites: These are: 1. Delingha (37.60N, 97.12E); 2. Da Qaidam (37.50N, 95.18E) and 3. Xiao Qaidam (37.26N, 95.08E)

Reference: Nuclear Tibet. 1993 (ICT); National Resource Defense Council (24/3/94); Xinhua (19/7/95); United Daily News (10/7/95).


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