Radioactive Fallout and Potential Fatalities from Nuclear Attacks on China’s New Missile Silo Fields

Sébastien Philippe, Ivan Stepanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


China is constructing three new nuclear ballistic missile silo fields near the cities of Yumen, Hami, and Ordos as part of a significant buildup of its nuclear weapon arsenal. Once operational, these missile silos will likely be included as targets in U.S. strategic counterforce war plans. Such plans call for using one or two nuclear warheads to strike each silo. Such attacks can generate large amounts of radioactive debris that are then transported by local winds and can deliver lethal doses of radiation to population hundreds of kilometers away. Here, we compute radioactive fallout from counterforce attacks on the three new alleged missile silo fields using the combination of a nuclear war simulator and modern atmospheric particle transport software and recent archived weather data. We find that the construction of these new silos will put tens of millions of Chinese civilians at risk of lethal fallout including in East China. In particular, the relatively short distance between the Ordos missile field and Beijing and the local winds patterns for the region, suggest that about half of the 21 million inhabitants of the Chinese capital could die following a counterforce strike, even if given advanced warning to shelter in place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
JournalScience and Global Security
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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