China has rattled nerves with its military and construction
activities on the islands it occupies in the South China Sea,
including building runways, though Beijing says most of the
construction is meant for civilian purposes, like lighthouses.
The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling
Communist Party's official People's Daily, said the nuclear power
platforms could "sail" to remote areas and provide a stable power
China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, the company in charge of designing
and building the platforms, is "pushing forward the work", said Liu
Zhengguo, the head of its general office.
"The development of nuclear power platforms is a burgeoning trend,"
Liu told the paper. "The exact number of plants to be built by the
company depends on the market demand."
Demand is "pretty strong", he added, without elaborating.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying played down the
story as a media report, however.
"I've not heard here of the relevant situation," Hua told a daily
news briefing, without elaborating.
In January, two Chinese state-owned energy companies, China National
Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and China General Nuclear Power
Corporation (CGN), signed a strategic cooperation framework pact on
offshore oil and nuclear power.
CGN has been developing a small modular nuclear reactor for maritime
use, called the ACPR50S, to provide power for offshore oil and gas
exploration and production. It expects to begin building a
demonstration project in 2017.
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Xu Dazhe, head of China's atomic safety commission, told reporters
in January the floating platforms were in the planning stage and
must undergo "strict and scientific demonstrations".
Chinese naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times the platforms
could power lighthouses, defense facilities, airports and harbors in
the South China Sea. "Normally we have to burn oil or coal for
power," Li said.
It was important to develop a maritime nuclear power platform as
changing weather and ocean conditions presented a challenge in
transporting fuel to the distant Spratlys, he added.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have
huge deposits of oil and gas, and is building islands on reefs to
bolster its claims. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and
Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about
$5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.
(Additional reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence
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