U.S. and China cooperate on largest nuclear security center in Asia-Pacific

2016-03-25 08:23Global Times Editor: Li Yan

As the largest nuclear security center in the Asia-Pacific region, financed by China and the U.S., began operation on Friday in Beijing, reporters were offered a chance to get a glimpse of the center and peek at the equipment and facilities inside.

Located in the Changyang Science and Technology Park in the southwestern outskirts of Beijing, the State Nuclear Security Technology Center is equipped with facilities for training, analytical experiments, environmental tests, emergency response simulations and the safe storage of nuclear material and equipment.

The center, jointly constructed by the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) and the U.S. Department of Energy, is capable of training about 2,000 nuclear security personnel from China and other Asia-Pacific nations each year, said CAEA chair Xu Dazhe, who is head of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).

The facilities and equipment in the center were provided by top nuclear labs in the U.S. and are at the cutting edge of technology.

Inside the center

The center is guarded by multiple advanced security measures. Enhanced wire fences, camera towers, microwave detectors as well as infrared detectors surround the warehouse that stores nuclear materials.

Apart from the center's microwave detectors that can precisely detect disturbances caused by the weather, plants and animals, a laser system has also been installed to detect and intercept drones, which reportedly enter restricted areas in many countries.

Detectors installed on the center's perimeter fence can also spot "invading behaviors" such as people climbing the fence, and there is also a system of "isolation areas" which trap intruders once they enter.

Inside the compound stands a two-story rapid response training facility, where instructors standing on the second floor can observe the exercises performed on the ground floor, news site reported on Monday.

In the largest drill ground in the center, extreme weather conditions - including wind and rain - can be simulated to develop trainees' fast emergency response capabilities during outdoor incidents. The center is also equipped with drill grounds to act out anti-terrorism scenarios.

The center's equipment for testing and analysis can accurately detect radioactive residue in the air and check the residue against a database to identify the substance's origin.

All four walls of one of the center's magnetic labs are covered with a special material that totally blocks cell-phone signals, according to an article published via one of the People's Daily's WeChat accounts on Tuesday.

As many of China's nuclear power stations are located in coastal cities, the center is also capable of testing power plant equipment for its ability to resist corrosion in a salty and wet environment.

The durability of power plant components is tested through being subjected to simulated sandstorms, bombarded with ultraviolet rays, zapped with electromagnetic waves and roasted at high temperatures, said the news portal.

Fruit of cooperation

China and the U.S. agreed to establish the center at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC in 2010. Under the agreement, the center, located in Fangshan district, Beijing, is administered by China, and the U.S. will provide the nuclear security equipment.

Preparations for the center's construction began in 2011, and ground was broken on the project in October 2013 and it was completed a year ahead of schedule in December 2015, Lu Kang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters at a daily briefing on Friday.

According to a SASTIND press release sent to the Global Times on Friday, the center is tasked with international cooperation and exchanges on nuclear security, regulating power plant components as well as the export of such equipment.

The two nations have also cooperated in other nuclear security areas such as low-enriched fuel reactors, the security of radioactive sources and radiation detection by customs authorities, according to Wang Yiren, deputy director of the CAEA and deputy head of SASTIND.

The Chinese mainland has 30 operational nuclear power plants, with a total installed capacity of 28.31 gigawatts.

The nation's nuclear power capacity is planned to reach 58 gigawatts, with an additional 30 gigawatts to be constructed by 2020.

In January, China published a nuclear white paper assuring the world that China had "the most advanced technology and most stringent standards" to ensure safe and efficient development of nuclear power.

Under the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), China has also vowed to upgrade its ability to ensure nuclear and radiation safety, including strengthening training to cope with accidents.

As the U.S. is home to almost a quarter of the world's nuclear power plants and as China is making rapid development in nuclear energy, the two countries' cooperation will make a great contribution to the world's nuclear safety and security, according to Gui Liming, a professor at Tsinghua University and expert on China's nuclear safety system.


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