700 new Chinese nukes by 2027 due to Russian uranium supplies
WASHINGTON, US — China gets the ability to produce 50 nuclear warheads per year. The “unlimited partnership” between Moscow and Beijing, which was announced during the visit of Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Mr. Vladimir Putin, guarantees China’s nuclear power for decades to come.
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The first Russian deliveries of highly enriched uranium have already been made. At the end of last year, 25 tons of Russian highly enriched uranium already went to China. The uranium was destined for China’s CFR-600, a fast reactor facility. These facilities do not use water, but liquid metal, experts say, and achieve the final results extremely quickly.
It is the rapid operation of the CFR-600 that worries Washington. According to US experts cited by Bloomberg, the CFR-600 can produce up to 50 nuclear warheads per year. However, according to others, China will be able to have 700 nuclear warheads by the end of 2027. According to other estimates, up to 1,500 nuclear warheads by the end of 2035.
The number 700 first appeared in a 2021 US Department of Defense report examining China’s nuclear capabilities. This number is greatly inflated in just twelve months, when the same report, but for 2020, predicted much less. The 2021 report suggests that China already has at least 400 nuclear warheads to date.
The US officials are on edge. The general public followed the behavior of the two leaders regarding the war in Ukraine. However, attention had to be directed in another direction – the signed agreement on the sustainable development of the so-called fast neutron reactors. It was this concern that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed last week during a congressional hearing. “They talked about a partnership without limits,” referring to the new nuclear cooperation between Russia and China.
No wonder we will soon see another package of US sanctions on Russia, but this time they will be directly aimed at the Russian nuclear energy giant Rosatom. There were calls for similar sanctions as early as last year, but the administration of US President Mr. Joe Biden did not take such sanctions steps. The general opinion in the US Congress following the meeting between Putin and Jinping was that Washington should “crack the whip” on Rosatom.
Plutonium is used for weapons
According to various comments, cooperation in nuclear energy between the two Asian countries has long ceased to be only in civil energy. Particular attention should be paid to China’s plutonium demilitarization reactors. “Plutonium is used for weapons,” Mr. John Plumb, the US assistant secretary of defense, said in a statement in March. According to Mr. Plumb, the supply of enriched uranium from Russia to China means that Beijing will greatly expand its nuclear potential.
“Fissile material” is extremely dangerous and the nuclear states, the ones that should be responsible in principle, should not share it to fuel their nuclear programs, commented a senior official from the US State Department, quoted by Eur Asian Times.
However, Beijing opposes Washington’s view, especially regarding the controversial CFR-600 plant. The Chinese say the CFR-600 has nothing to do with the arms industry. Its main goal is electricity for the civilian population under Beijing’s ambitious plan to replace the US as the main supplier of nuclear energy.
However, the US believes that the December delivery of 25 tons of high-grade enriched uranium for the CFR-600 is the basis for China’s new nuclear weapons program. According to preliminary calculations, in 12 years Beijing will have acquired four times more nuclear weapons than was assumed just a year ago.
As of now, the general consensus is that this is all in the realm of conjecture. Why? Because the uranium supply deal for CFR-600 remains secret and not public. It is the secrecy surrounding the deal that prompts speculation that at some point some of the supplies could be earmarked for the start of China’s new nuclear weapons program.
Even more disturbing is the following fact: since the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s nuclear exports have increased several times. Russia remains the world’s largest supplier of nuclear fuel and reactors. The sanctions did not change anything regarding the nuclear development of the Russian Federation, they simply made Moscow look for new partners, which it actually found.
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