Jeffrey LewisEarthquake Update

Mark Hibbs, writing in Nucleonics Week (subscription required), points out that that damage to China’s nuclear weapons facilities was slight:

According to local sources, the China Academy of Engineering Physics, CAEP, located in Mianyang, close to the epicenter of the earthquake, was not significantly damaged but six personnel were injured. CAEP is responsible for nuclear weapons production as well as for R&D aspects of China’s nuclear weapons program.

The production reactor and plutonium separation plant at Guangyuan, also located in Sichuan, were shuttered when the earthquake occurred, contrary to some foreign media reports last week, Beijing officials said. The complex, designed to withstand seismic events, was not damaged, they said.

That is consistent with what I, and others, have heard. A colleague sent along pictures of his apartment; it looked like Led Zepplin had stayed the night.

Update: I failed to mention that Mark’s good work leaves me relieved that my semi-informed guess to Bill Broad, “I wouldn’t be surprised if, by and large, they came through pretty well,”, appears to be holding up, so far.


  1. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    There may be a bigger earthquake that quietly happened.

    According to the latest numbers from the government, donations from domestic and overseas sources have now exceeded US$1.3 Billion as of Sunday at noon, and it is still coming in.

    That suggest that the “private” and “non-central governmental” aid is likely to have either exceeded already or will exceed the approximately USD$500 million Beijing allocated to the disaster as of last week.

    Long ago, an old timer I know remarked on the first time the cost of developing software for a major weapons system exceeded the cost of the hardware (the F-18 program, for those antiques who read this blog), and how since then, software costs have exceeded hardware ever since.

    The Chinese government may have discovered that their liberalization program have finally succeeded to the point where there is so much wealth in the hands of individuals, groups, and local governments that their wealth and capabilities —- when marshaled properly by the Central government, and more than not, voluntarily given, are now exceeding the capabilities of the central government in absolute terms.

    That suggest many, many more changes are coming to reflect a country that is diverse, pluralistic, with many different centers of power.

    Beijing is still the central government, with the theoretical power of a unitary state, but there are many more players now that have to be consulted and brought on board to develop a consensus —- unless it is a clear national emergency.

    China may not be a western style democracy, but it sure is beginning to operate like one.

    Any day now, I am expecting a Chinese leader to adopt the slogan, “Change you can believe in.”

  2. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    More on the real Chinese earthquake:

    “For now, though, the huge public response, and its often chaotic, ad hoc nature, is evident in much of the earthquake zone. State media reported that the first private volunteers to arrive at the scene were a rescue team organized by the president of a Jiangsu Province investment firm. Since then, a passionate contingent of private citizens has steadily arrived.

    Here in the remote village of Luchi, the local glass factory is a shattered husk while clusters of brick farmhouses are leveled. For Liu Lie, 67, a rice farmer, the situation is dire. He is sleeping with seven family members under a plastic tarp. Every wall of his home has been destroyed. But at the edge of his tarp, Mr. Liu pointed to stacks of bottled water, boxes of snacks and food and two bags of rice — all donations from volunteers who came here.

    “They are coming because they love the Chinese people,” Mr. Liu said. “You have to understand the difference between the old society and new society. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have food to eat. Now people are bringing us supplies from Guangzhou and all over the country.”” (

    Not long ago, Dr. Lewis expressed his gratitude for the form of government he lives under. (

    It was not always that way in China, but today, many Chinese citizens are expressing the same thanks, not just for the form of government they have, but of belonging to a nation whose citizens came to their aid after the quake.

    Sitting here in China, watching the people in a major metropolis contribute (you can tell because the Chinese Red Cross gave contributors little stickers), seeing how the nation came together with the 3 minutes of silence, and how the conversation in the street enthusiastic supporting the central government’s relief efforts, there is no doubt that the “chemistry” of the relationship between the people and government has changed.

    This is the real earthquake. Traditionally, natural disasters are a bad omen for the ruling dynasty. Contrary to tradition, Beijing has been strengthened and its prestige and have its legitimacy enhanced by its timely, effective, and efficient response to the disaster.

    Well informed Chinese citizens are making candid and interesting comparisons between the US Federal Government after Katrina and Beijing after the earthquake.

  3. Gridlock (History)
  4. Gridlock (History)



    [Public Notice 6232]

    Determination and Certification Under Section 40A of the Arms
    Export Control Act

    Pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C.
    2781), and Executive Order 11958, as amended, I hereby determine and
    certify to the Congress that the following countries are not
    cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts: Cuba;
    Eritrea; Iran; North Korea; Syria; Venezuela.
    I hereby notify that the decision to retain the certification of
    North Korea pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act
    comes during an ongoing review of the designation of North Korea as a
    state sponsor of terrorism. The outcome of this review may warrant a
    re-assessment of whether North Korea should be included among the
    Countries certified as not cooperating fully with United States
    antiterrorism efforts.
    This determination and certification shall be transmitted to the
    Congress and published in the Federal Register.

    Dated: May 14, 2008.
    John D. Negroponte,
    Deputy Secretary of State, Department of State.
    [FR Doc. E8-11255 Filed 5-19-08; 8:45 am]

    So NORK still has a way out in the not-so-distant future.

  5. mark hibbs (History)

    As I informed Jeffrey recently but failed to later mention that I had found the answer to the apparent contradiction, Chinese media reports which were translated into some foreign languages last week suggested misleadingly that six personnel at CAEP had been killed, not injured by the earthquake. In fact, it turns out that the Chinese language original report said that the six killed were employees of a different organization, CNEC (it also has the word “engineering” in its title)which has nothing to do with making nuclear weapons or operating nuclear facilities. CNEC is a component fabricator and construction firm doing both nuclear and non-nuclear work in a lot of places in Sichuan.