China Digging 'Sixth Tunnel' At Lop Nur Nuclear Test Site, New Satellite Images Reveal

By on
Beijing has accused the United States of overhyping the nuclear threat from China
Representation. China is reportedly expanding its nuclear site facility at Lop Nur.

China is reportedly expanding its nuclear test facilities as work to build a new hidden "sixth tunnel" progresses, satellite images show. The site is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and is under the control of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The site is located 450 kilometers above Lop Nur, a dried-up salt lake in the southeast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. China established the Lop Nur Nuclear Test Base in 1959 and conducted 45 nuclear tests in the region between 1964 and 1996.

Satellite images show extensive coverings erected on a mountainside. Piles of broken rocks, believed to be from the tunnel work, were seen nearby, according to Tokyo-based Nikkei Asia, which analyzed the images.

The development comes over 25 years after Beijing had halted explosive tests. It has not conducted full-scale nuclear testing since 1996 after signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty along with the world's other major nuclear powers.

However, the development of the site restarted some years ago. Recent images show power transmission cables being laid, and a new facility being erected, probably to store high-explosives. Unpaved white roads leading to the site from a command post in various directions were also spotted, besides new terrain leveling activity. Big trucks were also seen frequenting the area.

Last year, satellite imagery showed the presence of a tunnel. Analysts had then predicted that this new nuclear buildup really receives support from the highest level.

"China could conduct nuclear-related tests anytime, especially since the electricity line and road system now connects Lop Nur's western military nuclear test facilities to new possible test areas in the east," an unnamed expert at AllSource Analysis, a U.S. private geospatial company, told Nikkei. 

Though a nuclear power, China's nuclear force was always lesser than the U.S. as it always maintained a so-called minimum deterrent of a few hundred warheads. However, reports claim the nation was changing its policy and focusing on growing its nuclear arsenal.

The evidence that a sixth tunnel has been excavated hints at a planned resumption of nuclear activities and an early sign of a nuclear arms race. 

Though discreet, China's new policy change is reflected in recent reports of the country floating tenders inviting bids for "10 radiation dose alarms," "12 protective suits," and "one detector of wound site taints." 


Beijing has accused the United States of overhyping the nuclear threat from China

Photo: AFP / NOEL CELIS

Join the Discussion