'Pastures green' at atom bomb city
By JASPER BECKER in Beijing
BEIJING has claimed that its first nuclear bomb test in the early 1960s has not left a legacy of radioactive pollution.
The 'atom bomb city' on the Tibetan plateau in Qinghai is covered with trees and pastures where cows and sheep graze, said Xinhua (the New China News Agency).
'Green grass now grows over the 20-square-metre dump for radioactive wastes,' the report said.
'No one at the base has died of pollution,' the agency quoted local officials as saying.
Radiation levels are reported to be normal and babies are born in complete health after the Government spent 'a large amount of money' between 1989 and 1993, according to You Deliang, a spokesman for the China Nuclear Industry Corporation.
The report described the once-secret centre as 'the world's first retired research and production base for nuclear weapons' and a successful example of China's shift from military to civilian production.
China's equivalent of Los Alamos, known as Factory 221, once covered 1,170 square kilometres and for decades only appeared on maps as grasslands. It is now a bustling county capital attracting thousands of residents with its new factories, multi-storey apartments, shopping centres and sports facilities.
A report by the US-based International Campaign for Tibet alleged that the base was built by tens of thousands of slave labourers. It was partially opened in 1963 and the first model blast experiment was conducted at the site.
The research centre - also known as the Ninth Academy - was used to conduct experiments on the reprocessing of highly enriched uranium fuels.
The report accused China of using rough and slipshod methods of disposing of nuclear waste in shallow landfills.
Tibetan nomads living in the region were quoted in the report as complaining of strange births and cancers.
A Tibetan doctor, Tashi Dolma, allegedly said that seven children treated at the local hospital died of cancer in circumstances indicating radiation sickness.
The International Campaign for Tibet also said that meat from animals surrounding the base was banned from stores by the authorities as recently as September 1992.