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China's Planning to Build Floating Nuclear Power Stations

Finding a site to build a nuclear power plant isn’t straightforward—so why not send them out to sea? That’s what China is apparently planning to do.

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The state-run Chinese newspaper Global Times has reported that the similarly state-run China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation has plans to build up to 20 floating nuclear power stations. The director of the general office of China Shipbuilding, Liu Zhengguo, told the newspaper that the craft would be “based on mature technology.”

The floating plants would be used to provide electricity to remote locations around the South China Sea—including man-made islands and oil platforms. People’s Daily China has posted a rendering of how the structures might look:

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There are plenty of safety concerns to bear in mind: What happens in the event of a natural disaster, for instance? But equally it’s worth noting that more modest nuclear power generation schemes have been out at sea in the past—providing energy on the Panama canal during Word War II and still powering nuclear subs to the present day.

It’s thought the first Chinese floating nuclear plant could be built by 2018.

[Global Times via New York Times]

Contributing Editor at Gizmodo. An ex-engineer writing about science and technology.

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DISCUSSION

In 1961 the AEC and the US Army built STURGIS, a floating 10 megawatt nuclear power barge. It provided power at Fort Belvoir in Washington DC, and in Panama for eight years, then was decommissioned; it’s been mothballed ever since, and is presently scheduled to be scrapped.

Everything old is new again.