Tracking highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the key nuclear weapon materials

China is believed to operate indigenous enrichment plant

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According to a report by Uranium Intelligence Weekly that quotes industry sources, China is operating an indigenous uranium enrichment facility with a capacity of about 0.5 million SWU/year. This facility is different from the four enrichment plants built there by Russia.

China's enrichment plant reportedly uses small centrifuges that are not as advanced as the latest models produced by URENCO or Russia's Tenex. It is possible that the centrifuges use Soviet technology - according to a Rosatom official, the original agreement between Russia and China regarding construction of the first three centrifuge facilities, which goes back to 1991, did not have provisions that would prevent transfer of intellectual property (i.e. technology). In fact, the agreement anticipated a possibility of technology transfer, although it did not materialize.

Under the 1991 agreement Russia supplied China with centrifuges of the 6th generation. In 2007, before Russia and China signed a contract on construction of the fourth plant, they amended the original agreement with a protocol that protected Russia's intellectual property. Some reports mentioned a possibility of the fourth facility's using newer technology.

According to the Rosatom official quoted above, the two plants in Hanzhong have capacity of 0.2 million SWU/year and 0.3 million SWU/year, and the first plant in Lanzhou is 0.5 million SWU/year. The fourth plant, to be completed in 2011, will add another 0.5 million SWU/year.

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