China details plans for floating nuclear power plants to exploit ocean resources


A senior Chinese official on Wednesday detailed the nation’s plan to build a floating nuclear power station as it seeks to double its atomic capacity by 2020.

Authorities are making plans for a “marine floating power station,” which will go through “strict and scientific demonstration,” said Xu Dazhe, chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority.

“China is devoted to building itself into a maritime power, and so we will definitely make full use of ocean resources,” he told a news conference.

The use of nuclear power at sea is not unknown — aircraft carriers and missile submarines are often nuclear-powered — but doing so for civilian purposes appears to be unprecedented, although a Russian project is reportedly already under construction.

Beijing included the development of two marine nuclear power plants, to be built by China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC), in its 13th five-year plan for 2016 to 2020, the two companies announced this month.

The CNNC plant is expected to start operation in 2019 and CGN’s the following year, according to their statements.

They could provide power for offshore oil- and gas-drilling platforms, island development and remote areas, both firms said.

Beijing is at loggerheads with neighbors including Japan and the Philippines over territorial claims in the East and South China Seas and has alarmed rivals with its massive reclamation and construction of facilities on disputed reefs.

China currently has 30 nuclear reactors in operation, with a capacity of 28.3 gigawatts, Xu said. Another 24 reactors capable of generating 26.7 gigawatts are under construction, Xu added.

Beijing has said it aims to increase its installed atomic power capacity to 58 gigawatts by 2020, when another 30 gigawatts of capacity is scheduled to be under construction.

China suspended approvals of new plants following the Fukushima nuclear disaster after a tsunami struck in March 2011.

But it resumed approvals in 2012 despite a warning from the environmental ministry that the country’s nuclear safety situation was “not optimistic.”

Xu said that authorities last year gave eight new reactors the green light and that the country is “on course” to achieve its 2020 target.