China wants to build floating nuclear power plants for its new islands

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I’m sure you’ve heard about that man-made island chain that China has built in the South China Sea, the one that’s been causing a lot of anxiety for the other countries that claim territory in the heavily-disputed region. Well, now that the chain has been built, China needs to figure out a way to power all of the buildings that are on the islands, which is kind of hard to do when the islands are hundreds of miles away from the nearest electrical grid. China’s solution to this, according to a state-run newspaper known as Global Times, is to build a bunch of nuclear power plants that will float off the coast of the islands and supply the buildings with electricity.

All the radar systems, lighthouses, barracks, ports and airfields that China has set up on its newly built island chain in the South China Sea require tremendous amounts of electricity, hard to come by in a place hundreds of miles from the country’s power grid. Beijing may have come up with a solution: floating nuclear power plants. A state-owned company, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is planning to build a fleet of the vessels to provide electricity to remote locations including offshore oil platforms and the contentious man-made islands, the state-run newspaper Global Times reported on Friday. The paper quoted an executive at the company, Liu Zhengguo, as saying that “demand is pretty strong” for the floating power stations, which would be built by one of its subsidiaries. In January, Xu Dazhe, the director of the China Atomic Energy Authority, told reporters in Beijing that China was planning to develop offshore floating nuclear energy plants, saying they “must undergo a rigorous, scientific evaluation,” but also linking these to China’s desire to become a “maritime power.” Mr. Xu said at the time that developing China’s nuclear power-generating capacity was part of the country’s five-year economic development plan, which runs through 2020. China has more civilian nuclear power stations under construction than any other country.

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