Base 21 Lop Nor
All known Chinese nuclear weapons tests were conducted at the Lop Nor Test Site. The name sometimes appears as Lop Nor and Lo-pu po. Lop Nur or Lop Nor is from a Mongolian name meaning "Lop Lake", where "Lop" is a toponym of unknown origin [the translation "The Sea of ??Death" seems overly imaginative]. China nuclear test site, also known as the People's Liberation Army 21st training base (People's Liberation Army troops 63650), Malan Base, is located in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Bayinguoleng Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture and Shuo County is the Ren Keer rural territory.
The Lop Nur salt basin, SE Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China, is in the Tarim River basin. Once a large salt lake (as mapped by ancient Chinese geographers), it is now largely dried up, with marshes and small, shifting lakes receiving the channels of the Tarim river. The dried-up lake bed of Lop Nur is in the center of the region and it is surrounded by the Gashun Gobi desert to the north, east and west and by the Aqike valley and the Kum Tagh sand dunes to the south. The Kuruk Tagh mountains, an extension of the Tien Shan mountain range, dissect the area north of Lop Nur. The region was explored by N. M. Przhevalsky and Sven Hedin; archaeological sites at the ancient margins of the lake have yielded mummies of Caucasian inhabitants. In 1928, at the time of the last expedition, the lake covered c.1,200 sq mi (3,100 sq km).
Before the 1970s, it was the second largest saltwater lake in China. In the middle and late 20th century, due to the decrease in the flow of the Tarim River, the surrounding desertification was severe and rapidly degraded until it completely dried up in the late 1970s. In 1931, Chinese scholar Chen Zongqi and German geologist Horner conducted a field investigation on the newly formed waters in Lop Nur since the 1921 Tarim River was diverted, and completed the survey of the entire lake area in 1931. The actual area of ??the Lop Nur waters was 2375. Square kilometers, the water source comes from the Peacock River, enters the lake from the north end, enters the lake center, swells to the east, shaped like "boots", 85 kilometers long from north to south, 20 meters wide from east to west in the lake area. Kilometers, the width of the south is 45 kilometers from east to west, the lake is very shallow, and even boats could not be used in some areas.
The average annual temperature in Lop Nur is 11.6°, the highest temperature in summer is >40°, and the lowest temperature in winter is below -20°. The climate in this area is abnormally dry and hot, with annual sunshine hours> 3200h and annual accumulated temperature >4500°. The direction of prevailing wind in the Lop Nur area is NE throughout the year, with strong wind erosion. The windy season is from March to May, and the windy season is from June to August, with an 8-level windy day >60 days, often causing sandstorms.
Lop Nur has the most abundant potash mineral resources in China, and its potash reserves in the northern region have reached more than 250 million tons. It is expected that Lop Nur will replace Golmud as China's largest potash production base and one of the few potash mines in China. In a super large potash mine.
The Sun Tomb, which vaguely resembles a nuclear test crater but is not, is located on the north bank of the ancient Peacock River. It was discovered by archaeologists Hou Can and Wang Binghua in the winter of 1979. There are dozens of ancient tombs, each of which is a tomb of the dead surrounded by a round wooden pile in the middle, and a wooden pile more than one foot high. 7 circles are formed and several rays are formed, which are like the rays of the sun. According to carbon 14, the Sun Tomb has been 3800 years old.
In the 1950s, after the development of atomic bombs and missiles was officially launched, the construction of atomic bombs and missile bases was also put on the agenda. The power and destructive power of nuclear weapons are extremely great. At that time, the United States conducted nuclear tests in the vast ocean with the protection of its powerful maritime forces, and the Soviet Union conducted nuclear tests in the sparsely populated Siberia. New China ’s maritime power is weak, it is impossible to conduct nuclear tests at sea, and it is impossible to conduct underground tests for the first time. Then it can only be done on its own land like the Soviet Union. Therefore, finding and constructing a site capable of nuclear testing became a major and urgent task.
Minister of Defense Peng Dehuai instructed: "The question about the selection of a missile base and an atomic bomb test base was given to Chen Xilian. He is the artillery commander and he has run many places in recent years. He was selected and handed over to the engineering commander Chen Shifu, who is responsible for building Comrade Rongzhen paid more attention to arranging the military. It was better to form a system to pull it over, which would be conducive to secrecy. "The construction of the missile base was mainly in charge of Chen Shifu, but the site selection work for the atomic bomb test site in the early stage was mainly carried out by Soviet experts.
The Central Military Commission determined the construction of a nuclear weapons test site, and the Ministry of National Defense organized a site selection committee. The members include Chen Shiju, Jiang Wen, Tang Kai, Li Zhaobang, Chang Yong, and Cypriot. They and Abi Andreyev and others Four Soviet experts jointly study the site selection plan. Chen Shifu, along with members of the committee and Guo Yinghui of the Second Ministry of Machinery Industry of the People's Republic of China, and four Soviet experts went to the area west of Dunhuang, Gansu to investigate the atomic bomb test site (also called the atomic bomb target range).
It is said that the Soviet experts believed that the best site was a desert near Dunhuang, Gansu, but the site was too close to the Mogao Grottoes. Zhang Yunyu was ordered to come to Dunhuang. After investigation, he thought that Dunhuang was not suitable for an atomic bomb shooting range. There are two considerations. One is that it is too close to the Dunhuang Grottoes, only 130 kilometers away. The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang is the Chinese treasure left by the ancestors. The nuclear test was like an earthquake, and the treasure left by the ancestors was immediately annihilated. This is a great sin that cannot be borne. The second is that there is no water source, the loose soil layer is too thick, and the smoke generated by the nuclear explosion is too large. If the smoke is too large, it will spread with the wind, causing nuclear contamination. The third is that the test equivalent is too small, and only 20,000 tons of TNT equivalent atomic bombs can be tested, which obviously cannot meet the needs of China's nuclear development.
Later, Slavsky, the minister of the Soviet Ministry of Medium Machinery Industry, also wrote that Dunhuang was not suitable for the construction of an atomic bomb test site, and suggested that the shooting range construction be moved to the Lop Nur area in Xinjiang.
On December 24, 1958, Zhang Yunyu led the reconnaissance team from Dunhuang and headed west to Lop Nur through the Yumen Pass. The natural field of Lop Nur revealed itselfto them. This vast land has only very few people and its climate is mild. With a total area of over 100,000 square km, it is larger than Zhejiang Province. China's first nuclear commander, Zhang Yunyu, said in retrospect: "All over the desert we have looked for the precious land. This is the best testing field."
On December 28, Zhang Yunyu and his party arrived more than 100 kilometers northwest of Lop Nur and laid the first wooden pile. Later, this was the heart of the first atomic bomb in mainland China. In early February 1959, Chen Shiju, Wan Yi , and Zhang Yunyu jointly submitted a nuclear weapons test site selection report to the Ministry of National Defense, suggesting that the test site should be located in the northwestern area of ??Lop Nur, Xinjiang. On March 13, 1959, the Ministry of National Defense formally approved the report.
Lop Nur was the furthest away from Taiwan among several alternative sites. In the era when the reconnaissance satellite was not perfected, the Americans wanted to understand China ’s nuclear development by stationing in Taiwan ’s Taoyuan Air Force. The 35th Squadron of the Kuomintang Air Force at the base (that is, the "Black Cat Squadron", also known as the "Air Force Meteorological Investigation Research Group") which used U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. At the time, the mainland ’s nuclear activities were geographically farther away from Taiwan, and the safer it was. For example, the Lanzhou Uranium Enrichment Plant, the Qinghai Nuclear Weapons Development Base, and the Xinjiang Lop Nur Nuclear Test Base were all selected in the Northwest.
On June 13, 1959, the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army formally approved the construction of a nuclear test base. Because a small flower named "Malan" grows locally, it is beautiful and stubborn, and the nuclear test base is also called "Malan base". The construction of was extremely difficult. In order to adapt to the plateau climatic conditions, the base security personnel mainly recruit troops from the local area. For confidentiality reasons, the military vehicle pulled the recruits on the grassland for three days and three nights, giving the impression that they had travelled far. Many soldiers only learned after they retired that they originally worked as soldiers in their hometowns.
In 1958 and 1959, the troops entered the nuclear test base one after another. In 1960, military families entered the base. As the population increased, the living area of ??the nuclear test base gradually formed a small town, with schools, hospitals, shops, auditoriums and other facilities.
National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) was founded in 1953 as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Military Academy of Engineering, or Harbin Military Academy of Engineering. General Chen Geng, the founder of the Harbin Military Academy of Engineering and its first president, and the first deputy director of the National Defense Science and Technology Commission, made every effort to build the Malan Base: The school established the first atomic engineering department in China; teachers from the school such as Wang Ruzhi were among the first to come to the Base; many teachers and several hundred students of the school made outstanding contribution to the success of the first nuclear test; Malan Base’s first commander Zhang Yunyu was recommended by Chen Geng.
In August 1961, the department of atomic engineering was established in the Harbin Military Academy of Engineering in order to supply talents to the Base. The department, based on the atomic division of the former missile engineering department, consisted of three disciplines, namely nuclear weapons, radiation testing and nuclear power, for the department was set up “solely to meet the urgent need of the country to develop nuclear weapons for personnel training”. Therefore, the educational plan and curriculum were based on the opinions of experts from the institute of nuclear weapons of the Second Ministry of Machine Building.
Harbin Military Academy of Engineering soon became the talent pool for China’s “Two Bombs, One Satellite” project. To ensure that China’s first atomic bomb would explode successfully in 1964 as planned, in 1963, under the urgent order from the Commission, the school’s first 45 students of the nuclear explosion factor test and analysis major from the department of atomic engineering graduated in early April, earlier than scheduled, and went to the atomic bomb research units and nuclear testing base. Thirty-eight of them joined the nuclear testing technology institute at the nuclear testing base. In that summer, more than 100 students from the atomic engineering department graduated and were assigned to the base and the nuclear industry research institute.
Qian Xuesen once said, “Harbin Military Academy of Engineering has made great contributions to China’s ‘Two Bombs, One Satellite’ project.” His remarks are supported by a figure: More than a third of the staff at Malan Base were from Harbin Military Academy of Engineering.
Affected by the "Great Leap Forward", until 1963, the construction of the Atomic Bomb Development Base was still very unsatisfactory. The Second Machine Department decided that the Nuclear Weapons Research Institute could not wait until all the bases were built and then moved it over. Do it quickly. In the autumn of 1963, the Nuclear Weapons Research Institute was relocated to the base. There, various types of simulation tests were conducted; at the same time, the final assembly of the atomic bomb was completed there.
US satellite intelligence imagery of 6-9 August 1964 showed that the previously suspect facility near Lop Nor in Sinkiang was almost certainly a nuclear testing site. Developments at the facility include a ground scar forming about 60 percent of a circle 19,600 feet in diameter around a 325-foot tower (first seen in April 1964 photograph), and work on bunkers near the tower and instrumentation sites at appropriate locations is underway. The outward appearance and apparent rate of construction indicated that the site could be ready for a test in two months or so. The characteristics of the site suggested that it was being prepared for both diagnostic and weapon effect experiments.
China, Lop Nur nuclear test site, 20 Oct 64 --- In October 1964 China joined the nuclear club by conducting its initial atomic test at Lop Nor, in western China. Operation 59-6 was carried out at the Lop Nur test site in the Gobi desert of Xinjiang province, Western China, close to the ancient Silk Route. An implosion-type device was mounted from the top of a steel tower, producing a yield of 22 kilotons.
It was the first of a total of 45 Chinese nuclear tests, all of which were conducted at Lop Nur, the prelude to a series of increasingly sophisticated test shots which continued up to 1996. Twenty three of these tests were atmospheric and 22 underground, the yields ranging from 1 kiloton to 4 megatons. On 17 June 1967, just three years after operation 59-6 – faster than other nuclear weapon possessors - China detonated its first hydrogen bomb.
Today, in the center of the site where the first atom bomb exploded, are still seen the remains of colossal iron towers lying twisted on the ground like noodles and surrounded by scorched earth. Malan was built in the 1950s in the Bayinguoleng Mongol autonomous prefecture of the Gobi desert. At 472,472 square kilometers, the prefecture is bigger than the United Kingdom, and the testing site, about 200 km from the base, covers an area of 100,000 sq km, almost equal in size to Jiangsu province.
Its remote location meant Malan was one of the world's best sites for nuclear tests. An added advantage was that much of the radioactive material released by the bombs, which were detonated in mid-air, was captured in the soil of a dried out, funnel-shaped lake called Lop Nur, where it could later be easily collected for examination.
Strictly speaking, China's nuclear test site is not around the Lop Nor Lake basin, Lop Nor is just a code name. There are several other geographical names and actual positions of the Chinese military projects that are deviated, such as the names and positions of the three major satellite launch centers. Lop Nor’s headquarters are located in Malan, and lies between the settlements of Uxxaktal and Yushugou. Tens of kilometers north of Malan is the Scientific Research District, host to the Red Mountain institute.
The Lop Nur Proving Ground is actually a large area from Malan (Bosten Lake) to the east, north of the Peacock River, north to the Kuruk Mountain, and east to the border of Gansu Province. The atmospheric and underground tests are separated with almost 100 kn. The underground tests group in three areas separated by about 40 km.
- [40°45'N 89°45'E / 40.75, 89.75] The main air explosion test was carried out in the Gobi Desert on the north bank of the Peacock River, more than 300 kilometers from Malan, 80 kilometers northwest of the Lop Nur basin and 115 kilometers southeast of Qinggir. At the Lop Nur testing field, there is also a target section in which nuclear weapons have been dropped more than a dozen times. The glasslike ground is vivid before visitor's eyes.
- Qinggir: [41°33'04"N 88°41'26"E / 41.551366, 88.690606] The site of 13 of China’s 20 underground tests, none of which seem to have left the pockmarked moonscape so characteristic of the American counterpart at the Nevada Test Site.
- Nanshan: [41°41'57"N 88°21'56"E / 41.699351, 88.365775] Located to the northwest of Qinggir about 200 kilometers northwest of Lop Nur. It was used for tunnel shots in the side of mountains. Four adits [tunnel entrances] were visible in 2002, while a fifth adit was subsequently added, with active contruction ongoing in the year 2020.
- Beishan: Located to the southwest of Qinggir about 100 kilometers southeast of Bosten Lake and used for two vertical shaft underground tests [CHIC 9 on 22 September 1969 @ 41.376N88.318E and CHIC 20 on 17 October 1976 @ 41.65N88.66E]. There is no residual signature for these tests visible in commercial satellite imagery.
"Horse orchid" is malan in Mandarin Chinese. An atomic city, Malan nuclear testing base [42°10'N 87°10'E / 42.15, 87.15], stands in the depths of the Taklimakan Desert. This is the living area of the nuclear test unit. When the prospectors came to this desolate desert for the first time, there were only several families in the boundless stretch of desert. Malan flowers were blooming on both sides of a brook and thus Commander Zhang Yunyu called the living area of the base "Malan." 30 years have elapsed. The people of Malan have built with their own hands a "city" with an initial scope of development.
Visitors strolling on the streets of the "atomic city" are surrounded by tall white poplar trees and beautiful flowers and plants, which make the city full of life. Visitors never feel that you are in the Gobi Desert. An independent "small community of military personnel" has been established here. Streets and apartments are in apple pie order, with the work area and the living area lying side by side. There are banks, post and telecommunications offices, food stores, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, department stores, photo studios, and ballrooms. In addition, the "Loudian television station" has been built here.
In the work area, there are institutes for the study of fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, optics, physics, radiochemistry, and computers. Here, the military personnel of an intellectual sort quietly devote their youth and wisdom to national defense and the frontiers. Malan, a bright pearl in the desert of southern Xinjiang, has a strong appeal to the youth of different nationalities in the border area. When Malan flowers blossom, it is an exceptionally good time for people in love to have their weddings.
Wushitala township in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is only able to thrive because it is next to the Malan military base. The township's businesses, such as grocery stores, as well as fruit and vegetable markets, are hives of activity. They buzz with military personnel and curious tourists excited to be near the mysterious and legendary military base - which goes unmarked on maps - where China's first nuclear and hydrogen bombs were tested.
The base remains, but the testing center closed many years ago. The soldiers and their relatives visit the small restaurants that specialize in cuisine from provinces such as Shaanxi, Sichuan, Shandong and Henan to enjoy a taste of hometown cooking. A local legend in Wushitala, which means "horse orchid" in the Uygur language, says the center's first commanding officer named the base after the profusion of flowers he saw growing across the moonlike sands of the Gobi desert.
In 1986, China announced that it would not carry out tests in the atmosphere because of the dangers of radioactive pollution. The Malan center was then abandoned and the members of the research team moved to Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province. On July 29, 1996, China conducted its last nuclear test. On the same day, the government announced that all nuclear tests would cease as of July 30. After that, Malan's role began to change, but the base was still a highly classified secret. Flash floods have destroyed many sections of the narrow rugged road to the former research center, although many old military checkpoints still remain as a reminder of the days when the area was a highly restricted military zone.
Mark Fisk estimated locations of 11 underground nuclear explosions conducted between 26 May 1990 and 29 July 1996 at the Lop Nor test site in western China. To perform the analysis, seismic recordings were obtained from the Center for Monitoring Research (CMR), U.S. National Data Center, and Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Data Management Center. Using recordings with adequate signal-to-noise ratios, P-wave arrivals are picked manually by aligning waveforms of the events at common stations. This provides very precise relative phase timings (i.e., with relative errors typically much less than 0.1 sec). Based on analysis of commercial IKONOS satellite imagery, the locations of three explosions are fixed and used as master events. The other events are located relative to the nearest master event after correcting their travel times by the travel-time residuals (relative to IASP91) of the master events.
Location estimates of the 25 September 1992 and 29 July 1996 nuclear tests are within about 100 m of each other. The 90%-confidence error ellipse for the 29 July 1996 event has a semimajor axis of less than 0.3 km. The results indicate that these two tests were likely conducted in the same tunnel. Location estimates of nine explosions conducted at the eastern zone of the Lop Nor test site are within 140 to 490 meters of vertical boreholes and infrastructure to support nuclear testing observed in IKONOS imagery. The location estimates of the eleven Chinese explosions are all considered to be well within one km of the true detonation points and, hence, are categorized as GT1 events (as defined by Yang et al., 2000a). These solutions allow seismic travel times to be calibrated accurately for the Lop Nor region at seismographic stations of the International Monitoring System (IMS).
From 1964 to 1981, 24 surface and atmospheric nuclear explosions were conducted in China at the Lop Nor Test Site. As a result of these tests, freshly produced fission products appeared in objects in the environment and in milk in the population points of the Makanchy, Urdzhar and Taskesken Districts of Semipalatinsk Province, located 900-1,100 km away from the Chinese Test Site. The contamination levels varied within very wide ranges. The radionuclides, in transferring from objects in the environment into food products, led to biological effects on the human body. In 1984 the medical statistics authorities began to record a significant rise in fatal cases of cancer among the populations of the above-noted districts; this rise significantly exceeded the dynamics of cancer distribution in preceding years. Especially significant increases in fatal cancer cases were registered in such primary sites as breast and lung cancer.
The effects of China’s nuclear testing on human health, animals and the environment are largely unexplored due to the lack of publically available official data. The Xinjiang region is the largest Chinese administrative division and home to 20 million people of different ethnic backgrounds. A study carried out by the Japanese physicist Professor Jun Takada suggests that peak levels of radioactivity from China’s large-yield tests exceeded that of the 1986 Chernobyl reactor accident and seriously affected local populations.
In 2001, the State Environment Protection Administration of China (SEPA) signed the document which officially established the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in China’s north-western province, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region.
The Malan base was once the highest-ranking military restricted zone in mainland China, and has been closed to the outside world. In the 1980s, after many military facilities at the base were shut down, some important relics were preserved, such as a 300-meter-long artificial air defense tunnel (third-line headquarters), and a general building where 29 science and technology generals lived. Heshuo County, where the base is located, applied for the construction of a national-level red tourist area in the original scientific research center and military command center of the Malan base, which was approved in 2011.
All the local herdsmen are familiar with the manmade tunnel in the mountain behind the generals' building. Rooms were built along the 300-meter tunnel, which is now shrouded in darkness, and old metal telephone boxes still hang on the walls. A dead dog lay in the middle of the tunnel, sending a chill down people's spines. The tunnel, which served as a bomb shelter for the command office, would become a key attraction when the park opens to the public in 2015. The well-preserved facilities will take people back in time, said Sun Guijun, deputy director of Heshuo county tourist bureau, who was conducting surveying work at the site.
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