Estimating China's Production of Plutonium for Weapons

David Wright, Lisbeth Gronlund, "Estimating China's Production of Plutonium for Weapons," Science & Global Security, 11, no. 1, (2003): 61-80.
This article discusses the history of China's production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, and uses that history and analogies to the production process in the United States and Russia to estimate the amount of plutonium China produced at its two known facilities. That analysis leads to an estimate that China produced 2 to 5 tonnes of plutonium at these facilities before it ceased production around 1990. The article describes how the analysis was done and what assumptions were used so that a reader can understand how the results are affected by different assumptions or by new information that might become available. Given the lack of information available about most aspects of China's nuclear-weapon program, the estimate of plutonium production developed here is necessarily rough. However, even a rough estimate is interesting since the size of China's fissile material stockpiles will influence China's willingness to join a multilateral "cut-off" convention to ban future production of fissile material for weapons or outside of safeguards.

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