Recently, the South China Sea attracted a lot of international attention. It is a massive undeveloped area with abundant natural resources. After the warm disputation, on 14th July, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) official information publishing platform reprinted an article about” China will build 20 floating nuclear power plants on South China Sea”. Last week, CNNC and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) officially signed a strategic cooperation agreement to work together on developing floating nuclear power plants.
A floating nuclear power plant is a combination of a small modular reactor and ship engineering. Floating nuclear power plants offer various advantages: construction in a factory or shipyard should bring efficiencies; environmental impact is extremely low; and decommissioning can take place at a specialized facility. However, the offshore environment brings important considerations, such as access for personnel and equipment and the need to ensure radioactive materials never enter the sea. According to this plan, China will be the second country operating the floating nuclear power plant after Russia.
Not concerning about the political and military issues, how will the 20 floating nuclear power plants plan affect the nuclear industry?
Firstly, it will encourage the development on SMR. A floating nuclear platform is not required to supply massive energy, the most of them will be use to support the ocean exploitation on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea according to the Chinese government’s declaration, which a hundreds MWe output is sufficient. Although SMR has been discussed for decades in the nuclear industry, compared with traditional large nuclear project, SMR still lags far away behind. However, with the most important features of flexibility and long-term operation period with single charge, SMR is described as customizing, which means a big potential market.
Another result is more companies, such as CSIC which does not belong to the traditional power industry, will be involved in the nuclear development. CSIC signed the cooperative agreement with China General Nuclear Power Corporations (CGN) and State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) in January of 2016, so far, CSIC has established the relationship with all three Chinese nuclear operators.
CSIC and SPIC signing the strategic cooperation agreement
CGN announced on 12 January that development of its ACPR50S reactor design had recently been approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan for innovative energy technologies. The 20 floating nuclear power plants idea is not an impractical whim but more like a well-prepared deliberate decision. The first floating nuclear power plant in South China Sea may start its operation by 2020.
What is your opinion towards the floating nuclear power plant?