Lonely Planet Writer

In Pictures: former underground nuclear power plant in China opens to the public

A former nuclear base built underground in the world’s largest man-made cave during the Cold War has opened to the public in China, giving tourists the opportunity to explore the inner workings of the gigantic plant.

816 Nuclear Military Plant China
A room inside the 816 Nuclear Military Plant lit up by haunting green lights. Image by VCG/Getty Images
The plant is built underground in the largest man-made cave in the world.
The plant is built underground in the largest man-made cave in the world. Image by VCG/Getty Images
Visitors explore the former nuclear base.
Visitors explore the former nuclear base. Image by VCG/Getty Images

Built in Chongqinq in southwest China, the 816 Nuclear Military Plant is the largest of its kind in the world. Construction began on the plant in 1966, with work ongoing for 17 years before it was shut down by the Central Military Commission. The huge 104,000 square metre structure opened for tours to the public this month, offering a glimpse into the previously private base.

A view of a cave entrance from outside.
A view of a cave entrance from outside. Image by VCG/Getty Images
Construction on the plant began in 1966 and was ongoing for 17 years.
Construction on the plant began in 1966 and was ongoing for 17 years. Image by VCG/Getty Images

The cave was designed and constructed to withstand thousands of dynamite explosives, as well as magnitude eight earthquakes, with more than 60,000 soldiers taking part in the construction.  Next month, veterans that took part in the building will be invited to visit the plant during a special tourism trade fair.

Tourists explore the former nuclear plant in Chongqing.
Tourists explore the former nuclear plant in Chongqing. Image by VCG/Getty Images
The newly opened attraction offers a glimpse at the formerly secretive base.
The newly opened attraction offers a glimpse at the formerly secretive base. Image by VCG/Getty Images

Exhibitions at the base include a selection of historical photos showing the plant as it once was, while different cavernous rooms and caves lit in a range of haunting colours are available for viewing. Certain areas of the gigantic structure are open to domestic tour groups at present, with plans in place for other areas to be unveiled and included in tours in the future.

Over 60,000 soldiers took part in the construction of the plant.
Over 60,000 soldiers took part in the construction of the plant. Image by VCG/Getty Images
Plans are in place for further areas of the 816 plant to be opened for domestic tours in the future.
Plans are in place for further areas of the 816 plant to be opened for domestic tours in the future. Image by VCG/Getty Images

Since opening its doors to the Chinese public, local residents have shown a keen interest in visiting the nuclear base. Plans are in place for the local government to work with travel agencies to promote the site for local tourism in the future.