China plans for a fleet of floating nuclear power plants that could provide huge amounts of electricity for the far-flung atolls and islets. It could build as many as 20 floating nuclear power plants that would supply power to its offshore drilling rigs, the radar systems, lighthouses, barracks, ports and airfields that China has set up on its newly built island chain.
State-owned company, China Shipbuilding Industry Corp., is planning to build the fleet of vessels. A company executive was quoted as saying that ‘demand is pretty strong’ for the floating power stations. Such nuclear power stations are capable of providing power to lighthouses, seawater desalination, rescue and relief equipment, defensive weapons and airports and harbors on islands in the South China Sea.
China uses oil or coal for power generation in the islands and since it has increased activities in South China sea, it is imperative for the country to employ convenient sources of power generation. Experts believe that transporting fuel between the long distance of islands from the country mainland is somehow impractical and hence it is much better to develop the maritime nuclear platform.
Floating nuclear plants are not new and have been around for a while now but security analysts and nuclear power experts fear that their use in the South China Seas would be a potentially worrying situation.
In recent years, Beijing has been frantically creating artificial islands, for thinly disguised military purposes as it seeks to assert its control over the South China Seas. Some of these islands have military-grade airfields and some have advanced air-defense radars.
The artificial islands built by the Chinese in the past two years in disputed waters of the South China Sea have created tensions with neighbors Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei among others. A source of nuclear power in the region could grant Chinese military additional power over waters in the South China and many experts fear China will try to enforce an Air Defence Identification Zone, or ADIZ, around its disputed properties in the Paracel or Spratly islands, as it did in 2013 in the East China Sea.
Several security experts have termed that floating nuclear reactors would also enable Chinese military to conduct extensive operations in the area and will also provide an extra layer of protection to China from any potential attacks.
The floating reactors also raise plenty of environmental and safety concerns, especially because the area suffers frequent powerful storms, and it is not clear what kind of mobility the floating nukes will have.