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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Nuclear Weapons

Taiwan does not have nuclear weapons. However, Taiwan has made attempts to organize production of plutonium on an experimental basis. Imported nuclear technologies, knowledge, and equipment do not enable Taiwan to create nuclear weapons, but do provide the necessary basis for work in the nuclear field and may accelerate nuclear weapons development, if such a decision is made. Taiwan is a member of the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. To increase transparency, Taiwan is implementing the IAEA's new, more effective safeguards, known as "Program 93+2."

Following the reestablishment of National Tsinghua University in Taiwan in 1956, the university built the nation's first research nuclear reactor and began training atomic energy specialists. More than a decade later, the Taiwan Power Company established a nuclear energy department and laid plans for a nuclear power plant. Thereafter the Atomic Energy Council and the Nuclear Energy Research Institute were established, and the development of nuclear energy gradually progressed to the stage of large reactors used for the generation of power.

Taiwan launched a nuclear weapons program after the first Chinese nuclear test in October 1964. The military Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology developed the "Hsin Chu Program" which included the purchase of a heavy-water reactor, a heavy-water production plant, and a plutonium separation plant. The Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (INER) established in 1968 as the sole national institute in Taiwan specialized in nuclear technology R&D programs.

By 1974 the US Central Intelligence Agency concluded that "Taipei conducts its small nuclear program with a weapon option clearly in mind, and it will be in a position to fabricate a nuclear device after five years or so."

Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, and the presidency was assumed by his son, Chiang Ching-kuo.

In September 1976 President Chiang Ching-kuo stated that Taiwan would not develop reprocessing facilities or engage in reprocessing. Despite this pledge, Taiwan appears to have continued modest clandestine reprocessing and irradiation research through the late 1980s. The United States forced Taiwan to dismantle some facilities to reduce the risk they posed.

In 1988 Taiwan shut down the TRR reactor. Before 1988, INER was under the administration of Chung Shan Institute of Sciences and Technologies (CSIST). INER's mission was designated for the national peaceful usage of the nuclear energy research and development, and after 1988 INER became a part of Atomic Energy Council.

Speculation over a covert Taiwanese nuclear program intensified on 13 October 2004, after the Associated Press reported that International Atomic Energy Agency officials disclosed they had evidence that Taiwan experimented with plutonium during the early 1980s (AP). Taiwanese experts voiced strong opposition to the idea of a nuclear program, saying it would bring direct conflict with China and isolate Taiwan from the United States (Taipei Times, ETtoday). The pro-independence China Post was one of the few Taiwanese media outlets to publish an editorial supporting a nuclear weapons capability.

Atomic Power

Developed atomic power engineering has been created in the country with the technical assistance of American and Western European states. By the mid-1980's, there were already six nuclear power units with a total capacity of 4,900 megawatts operating in Taiwan. The construction of Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant will set the stage for the acquisition of an advanced reactor design and digital control technology. Because the nation's first nuclear power plant is approaching its second ten-year license renewal, the focus of research efforts over the next few years will be to prevent the plant from deteriorating and extend the plant service life.

Taiwan does not have its own natural reserves of nuclear raw materials and actively cooperates with other countries in searching for and exploring uranium deposits. A five-year agreement between a Taiwanese and an American firm on joint development of uranium ore in the United States was signed in 1985. That same year a contract was signed with the Republic of South Africa for a 10-year supply of uranium from that country.

Apart from power generation, nuclear energy technology is also widely used in the R.O.C. for medical purposes. In addition to the medium-sized cyclotron and medical isotope and nuclear material extraction facilities constructed by the Nuclear Energy Research Institute, major hospitals and medical centers have established radiation medicine, tumor therapy and nuclear medicine departments. Among these, Veterans General Hospital in Taipei has set up a small cyclotron to produce short half-life radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:50:18 ZULU