- Reinhard Krause/Reuters
While tensions are flaring in the South China Sea, recent reports from leading Chinese nuclear engineers won’t be relieving that sentiment any time soon – according to ChinaDaily, the country is now developing a new vessel-installed nuclear power station.
This ship – estimated to be complete by 2018 and fully operational by 2019 – would potentially be able to provide a source of electricity to isolated locations in the sea, including the highly contested South China Sea.
“Normally, we burn oil for power, but the problem with the fuel is that the cost is not only high but sometimes you have to transport it in a long distance,” Chief Engineer of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) Lei Zengguang said to ChinaDaily. “Nuclear power, however, is cost-effective and the fuel only needs to be recharged every year-and-a-half.”
Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie also explained, “The nuclear-powered vessels can travel further with more reliable fuel, compared with conventional ships.”
With this newfound source of power, experts also claimed that the country would be able to ramp up commercial development in the South China Sea by providing power to lighthouses, defense facilities, airports, and harbors.
It’s yet unclear how many of these vessels will be constructed or precisely where they’ll be dispersed – Zengguang reasoned that it would depend on market demand.
Regardless, this doesn’t bode well for those that have a territorial stake in the region. Amidst the recent ruling against Beijing by the Hague-based international tribunal, China is encouraging commercial activity as well as developing structures – such as resorts, hospitals, and even farms – in the South China Sea.