Beijing: China is edging closer to building its first floating maritime nuclear power platform with the prospects of deploying it in the disputed South China Sea, a state-run daily said on Friday, even as the Foreign Ministry declined to react, saying it had not heard of the plans.
The Global Times in a report said that the nuclear platforms could significantly boost the efficiency of the country's construction work on islands in the strategic South China Sea.
It said the nuclear power platforms could "sail" to remote areas and provide a stable power supply.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, the company in charge of designing and assembling the platforms, is "pushing forward the work", said Liu Zhengguo, the director of its general office.
"The development of nuclear power platforms is a burgeoning trend," Liu told the paper when asked to comment on a previous media report that China plans to build 20 maritime nuclear power platforms.
"The exact number of plants to be built (by CSIC) depends on the market demand," he said, without confirming or denying the reported number.
"Judging by various factors, the demand is pretty strong," Liu said, adding the construction of the platforms is "based on mature technology."
He emphasised that the plants are mainly for civilian use, such as providing electricity for oil drilling platforms.
The daily quoted a report published by eworldship.com, a Shanghai-based shipbuilding industry website, that Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry Company (BSHIC), a ship assembly enterprise under the CSIC, will be responsible for building China's first maritime nuclear power platform, and the CSIC will build about 20 such platforms "in the future."
The report said a group of experts has reviewed and discussed the technical plan on the construction of the platform proposed by Institute 719, which is also under the CSIC, and reached a unanimous conclusion.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, however, declined to react and played down the story as a media report.
"What you said is a media report. I have not heard about that," Hua said, when asked about the report the Global Times.
The construction of the first maritime nuclear power platform, which serves as a demonstration project, is expected to be completed by 2018 and be put into use by 2019, China Securities Journal reported in January this year.
The daily quoted analysts as saying that the maritime nuclear power platforms will play an important role in China's long-term South China Sea strategy.
Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times yesterday that the platforms could provide reliable power for lighthouses, seawater desalination, rescue and relief equipment, defensive weapons and airports and harbours on islands in the SCS.
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.
China has witnessed the fastest growth in nuclear power worldwide.
According to China's first white paper on nuclear emergency preparedness issued in January, the Chinese mainland had 27 nuclear power generating units in operation as of the end of October 2015, with a total installed capacity of 25.5 gigawatts (GW), while another 25 units with a total installed capacity of 27.51 GW were under construction.
The world's second largest economy plans to raise its installed nuclear power capacity to 58 GW with an additional 30 GW under construction by 2020 and build itself into a strong nuclear power country by 2030.