from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 51
June 23, 2010

Secrecy News Blog:


China recently opened to the public a massive underground former nuclear weapons facility known as Project 816 in Chongqing, and video footage of the site was featured in a recent report from the DNI Open Source Center.

The Chongqing facility, which began construction in 1967 (some say 1966), was originally intended to house plutonium production reactors. But construction ceased in 1984, and the site was apparently never operational. Its existence was declassified by the Chinese government in 2003 (some say 2002), and it was opened to public tours in April of this year.

Two Chinese television news reports on the facility were translated by the Open Source Center.

"Project 816 is a gigantic system hidden in an inconspicuous mountain," the TV narrator said in the OSC translation. "According to experts, Project 816 is the world's biggest artificial cave." It consists of a massive chamber "with multiple stories and caves within the caves, making it like a maze." There are "over 130 roads, tunnels, and passages, totaling 21 kilometers in length."

"Nuclear bombs are a great mystery to many," said Hu Lindan, an official at the site, in one of the news clips. "The place to make nuclear bombs must be an even bigger mystery. Plus, ours is an underground one. It is so immense that we call it the Underground Great Wall."

A copy of the OSC report with links to the translated video clips was obtained by Secrecy News and posted on the Federation of American Scientists website. See "Subtitled Clips of China's Declassified Underground Nuclear Facility in Chongqing," Open Source Center, April 22-23, 2010:

The facility was also described in "Project 816 - Unfinished plutonium production complex in China" by Hui Zhang in the International Panel on Fissile Materials blog, June 5:

"Visitors can now pay 40 yuan for a tour of this once top-secret facility," China Daily reported yesterday. "However, staff at the entrance warned that, due to 'confidential matters', both foreigners and the use of cameras are prohibited."

"It is so sad," said one former worker. "The base was supposed to be the largest nuclear facility in China, not a tourist attraction." See "Nuclear Reaction to Tourist Attraction" by Peng Yining, China Daily, June 22, 2010:

"Underground facilities are being used to conceal and protect critical activities that pose a threat to the United States," according to a 1999 report from the JASON defense advisory panel. "The proliferation of such facilities is a legacy from the [first] Gulf War: a lesson from this war was that almost any above-ground facility is vulnerable to attack and destruction by precision guided weapons. To counter this vulnerability, many countries have moved their assets underground."

"Hundreds of underground installations have been constructed worldwide," the JASONs observed at that time, "and many more are under construction." See "Characterization of Underground Facilities," April 1999:


One thing that is even more impressive than China's nuclear history is its emerging green energy future. "China has set ambitious targets for developing its... renewable energy resources with a major push of laws, policies and incentives in the last few years," according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

"The wind power sector is illustrative of China's accomplishments, as installed wind power capacity has gone from 0.567 GW in 2003 to 12.2 GW in 2008. Plans already exist to grow China's wind power capacity to 100 GW by 2020. A similar goal exists for the solar photovoltaic power sector which China intends to increase from 140 MW as of 2009 to over 1.8 GW by 2020."

"Renewable energy is subsidized by a fee charged to all electricity users in China of about 0.029 cents per kilowatt-hour," the CRS report noted.

A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News. See "China and the United States -- A Comparison of Green Energy Programs and Policies," June 14, 2010:

Other new CRS products that have not been made publicly available online include the following.

"Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Acquisition: Issues for Congress, June 15, 2010:

"Securing America's Borders: The Role of the Military," June 16, 2010:


The role of scientific research in weapon development was explored through four case studies written in 1984 by arms control scholar Milton Leitenberg. The case studies examine the development of anti-satellite weapons; weather modification; Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs); and biological weapons research.

Military research does not cause arms races, Leitenberg argued, nor is it autonomous or self-sustaining. Rather, military R&D is driven by a deliberate political process. Weapons systems are "produced by an enormous enterprise consciously established by political decision to produce them."

"Military R&D is guided and directed: questions are put; particular materials, effects, and performance capabilities are sought; and research funding is allocated accordingly."

It follows that a reallocation of research funding is also a political possibility. "Particularly in the area of weapons development and procurement decisions, there seems to be extremely little, if any, 'technological imperative' [that would somehow compel certain technology choices]," Leitenberg wrote.

The studies were originally prepared in support of a United Nations report. That UN report was never released, the author explains, due to objections from a Soviet official who wanted references to the USSR excised. But the supporting studies have now been published on the Federation of American Scientists website. See "Studies on Military R&D and Weapons Development" by Milton Leitenberg, 1984:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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