Sovereignty over the South China Sea is contested by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and any move to build nuclear reactors is bound to stoke further tension in the region.
The official China Securities Journal said as many as 20 offshore nuclear platforms could eventually be built in the region as the country seeks to “speed up the commercial development” of the South China Sea.
“China’s first floating nuclear reactor will be assembled by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation’s (CSIC) subsidiary, Bohai Heavy Industry, and the company will build 20 such reactors in the future,” the newspaper said.
“The marine nuclear power platform will provide energy and freshwater to the Nansha Islands,” it said, referring to the disputed Spratly Islands.
The newspaper was citing a social media post by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which has since been deleted, but the idea to build floating reactors to satiate the country’s energy demands has been gaining support since 2014.
The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, announced similar news in April and said the nuclear power platforms could “sail” to remote areas and provide a stable power supply.
“The news is old,” an expert with the China Nuclear Energy Association, said. “It is repeated in reaction to the latest South China Sea disputes,” the expert, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.
“Little progress has been made on building such a small reactor.”
China’s claims over around 85 percent of the South China Sea were declared unlawful by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Tuesday, a decision that Beijing has rejected.
A spokesman for CNNC told Reuters the floating reactors plan had been drawn up by its affiliate, the Nuclear Power Institute of China, and a final decision would be made by CSIC. CSIC was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Kathy Chen and David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie)