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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
China nuclear site made museum
China has converted its first nuclear weapons base into a public museum, according to the state Xinhua news agency.

The facility, where China's atom and hydrogen bombs were first developed, is located in the predominantly Tibetan town of Xihai, in the north-western province of Qinghai.

The base, known as No 221 Plant, was built in 1958.

For more than 30 years, weapons were researched and produced there, and the town was dubbed Nuclear City.

But in 1987 the government decided to close the plant, in line with its demand for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

Since then the site has undergone years of cleaning and rehabilitation, according to Xinhua, and is now environmentally safe.

China began developing nuclear weapons in the late 1950s, with assistance from the Soviet Union.

The country first achieved nuclear capability in 1964, when it conducted a test of a 25 kilo tonne weapon at Lap Nor.

It launched its first nuclear missile in October 1966, and detonated its first hydrogen bomb in June 1967.

The size of China's nuclear stockpile is uncertain, but in the late 1980s China was often seen as the world's third-largest nuclear power.

Some estimates suggest that by the mid-1990s, China had produced around 2,000 nuclear weapons for use in ballistic missiles, bombers, artillery projectiles and landmines.


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