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The health and environmental costs of China’s nuclear bomb tests

According to reports, China’s effort to become nuclear superpower has cost 1.94 lakh lives as it conducted around 45 successful nuclear tests between 1964-1996

By Ujjwal Samra   22 Aug 21,

China’s effort to become a nuclear superpower, according to reports, has cost 1.94 lakh lives as it conducted around 45 successful nuclear tests between 1964 and 1996. Peter Suciu, writing in The National Interest, stated that estimates suggest 194,000 people have died from acute radiation exposure, while around 1.2 million may have received doses high enough to induce leukaemia, solid cancers, and fetal damage during China’s nuclear test attempts.

As per the report, the nuclear test produced a yield of 3.3 megatons–200 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ detonated on Hiroshima, Japan, killed nearly 80,000 instantly; this marked the first use of nuclear weapons in war. 

‘Xinjiang region remained unclear how radiation affected the populace’

The effects of China’s nuclear testing, especially those nearly two dozen atmospheric tests (a total of twenty-three were conducted in the atmosphere), have not largely been studied due to a lack of official data, says Suciu. Xinjiang region that is home to some twenty million people of different ethnic backgrounds has remained unclear how radiation has affected the populace. A Japanese researcher, who studied the radiation levels, has suggested the peak radiation dose in Xinjiang exceeded that measured on the roof of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor following the 1986 meltdown. Suciu also states that reports suggest that radioactive dust has spread across the region, and hundreds of thousands of people may have died already from the nearly four dozen total nuclear tests that were carried out between 1964 and 1969. 

China’s atmospheric nuclear testing

China conducted its first atomic bomb test in 1964 in Lop Nur – Project 596, known as the code word “Chic-1” by the US intelligence community (IC). The last of China’s atmospheric tests, which was also the last atmospheric test in the world, took place at Area D at Lop Nur on October 16, 1980–sixteen years to the day from the first test. Since that time, all nuclear tests have been conducted underground due to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) concluded in 1996. However, neither Washington nor Beijing has accepted it, even though China has sworn to have adhered to the terms, reported the National Interest. 

‘Serious Problem with China’s Nuclear Plant’

Earlier, the French co-owner of a nuclear power plant in China on July 21 warned of problems serious enough to warrant a shutdown. According to CNN, the spokesperson for Electricite de France (EDF) said that the damage to the fuel rods at China’s Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, located in southern Guandong province, are serious enough to warrant shutdown. It was a “serious situation that is evolving,” he said. However, China even denied raising the acceptable limits of radiation. It said that the levels were “still within the range of allowable, stable operations”. 

August 23, 2021 - Posted by | China, weapons and war

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