Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















NUKEWARS
China re-brands Cold War nuclear bunker as tourist draw
By Ludovic EHRET
Fuling, China (AFP) March 17, 2017


It was a top-secret Chinese nuclear facility with a deadly Cold War mission -- to make plutonium for an atomic bomb -- but these days its doors are wide open as a tourist attraction.

The cavernous "816 Nuclear Military Engineering" installation was burrowed into lush green mountains in southwest China over a 17-year span by 60,000 soldiers toiling day and night in dangerous conditions.

Construction on the vast site began in 1967, three years after China successfully tested its first atomic weapon, as China hurried to catch its nuclear programme up with that of Cold War rivals the United States and Soviet Union.

Located in the huge Chinese municipality of Chongqing, it covers 100,000 square metres (1.08 million square feet) -- the equivalent of 14 football pitches -- and with a volume equal to 600 Olympic-sized pools.

It has the world's largest known network of man-made tunnels, its maze-like corridors extending more than 20 kilometres (12 miles).

Surrounded by darkness and damp concrete, visitors are transported back to the Cold War.

"It's very impressive and mysterious," said Pan Ya, a thirty-something tourist from a neighbouring town who visited with her parents.

"They had heard about this place for a long time but were never able to come in," she said while gazing at the old reactor core, now decorated with fake plutonium bars coloured a luminous green.

- Built for nothing -

The facility cost 80 billion yuan (11 billion euros, $12 billion) but, ironically, no nuclear material ever passed through it due to a dramatic shift in developments above ground even as soldiers laboured below.

China established diplomatic ties with the US in 1979 and, later, tension with the Soviet Union also eased. Although near completion, the site was judged to have no further use and was abandoned in 1984.

Declassified in 2002, it was opened to Chinese tourists in 2010 and began welcoming foreign visitors at the end of 2016.

More than 300,000 Chinese tourists have since visited, while less than 100 foreigners had done so as of last month.

Just 10 percent of the corridors, massive halls and control rooms are open to the public, but visitors can view a light show projected upon a mammoth wall as music thunders, along with various exhibits, including a model of the first Chinese A-bomb.

"We're not promoting nuclear weapons," explains Zheng Zhihong, 816's manager.

"Quite the opposite. I hope that one day the nuclear powers will say 'Stop, let's all count to three and destroy our arsenals'."

- Blood, sweat and years -

816's rebirth as a tourist attraction comes as little comfort to the thousands of soldiers who endured hellish conditions in blasting out the site's corridors and halls.

"A colleague would detonate the explosives. Then we'd dig away at the rock with a machine. It could have collapsed at any minute," recalls former soldier Chen Huaiwen, now 70.

Officially, 76 people died in the process, but tour guides and former workers insist the number is too low.

"We'd sleep several to a bed, on straw mattresses," Chen said.

"It was a furnace in the summer and you wouldn't get to sleep before 1 am."

"Armed police kept watch outside while we worked on the construction. It was top-secret, entry was forbidden. At the time, ordinary people in the area only knew there was some project, they did not know what was being worked on."

The food was basic: rice and beans, with meat thrown in twice a week.

"Many got lung problems because of the dust, and that's without taking into account the toxic emissions from explosives, the machine smoke and the foul air," adds Chen.

Tears welled up in the eyes of another former soldier who worked on 816, Li Gaoyun, as he viewed old photos displayed in the tunnels.

It was his first visit back in 42 years.

Li said many of the ex-soldiers who toiled at 816 receive no pensions or welfare benefits despite the enormous sacrifices they made for their country.

"A lot of the former workers have no pension, no social security. They don't have enough to live on," Li said.

"They owe us that. We gave our blood, our sweat. And our youth."

NUKEWARS
Trump, Abe say North Korea threat 'entered a new stage'
Washington (AFP) March 7, 2017
US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned Monday that the threat from North Korea had "entered a new stage," following another defiant missile test. The two leaders spoke by telephone after North Korea fired off four ballistic missiles, in what Pyongyang provocatively called a training exercise for a strike on US bases in Japan. "Japan and the United States ... read more

Related Links
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

NUKEWARS
Trump's budget would cut NASA asteroid mission, earth science

Aiming Higher: High School Students Build Flight Hardware Bound for Space

Student Scientists Select Menu for Astronauts

Fly me to the Moon: Russia seeks new cosmonauts

NUKEWARS
SpaceX launches EchoStar XXIII comms satellite into orbit

US BE-4 Rocket Engines to Replace Russian RD-180 on Atlas Carrier Rockets

Kennedy's Multi-User Spaceport Streamlines Commercial Launches

Hitting the brakes at Alpha Centauri

NUKEWARS
ExoMars: science checkout completed and aerobraking begins

Mars Rover Tests Driving, Drilling and Detecting Life in Chile's High Desert

Opportunity Driving South to Gully

NASA Mars Orbiter Tracks Back-to-Back Regional Storms

NUKEWARS
China Develops Spaceship Capable of Moon Landing

Long March-7 Y2 ready for launch of China's first cargo spacecraft

China Seeks Space Rockets Launched from Airplanes

Riding an asteroid: China's next space goal

NUKEWARS
A Consolidated Intelsat and OneWeb

UK funding space entrepreneurs

Kymeta and Intelsat announce new service to revolutionize how satellite services are purchased

ISRO Makes More Space for Private Sector Participation in Satellite Making

NUKEWARS
Why water splashes: New theory reveals secrets

Next-gen steel under the microscope

Aluminium giant Rusal doubles profits

Groundbreaking process for creating ultra-selective separation membranes

NUKEWARS
Operation of ancient biological clock uncovered

Fossil or inorganic structure? Scientists dig into early life forms

Gigantic Jupiter-type planet reveals insights into how planets evolve

Visualizing debris disk "roller derby" to understand planetary system evolution

NUKEWARS
ESA's Jupiter mission moves off the drawing board

NASA Mission Named 'Europa Clipper'

Juno Captures Jupiter Cloudscape in High Resolution

Juno to remain in current orbit at Jupiter




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement