China Reiterates Plan to Deploy Offshore Nuclear Reactors to the Spratly Islands, and Elsewhere in the South China Sea

On Friday, July 16, 2016, Chinese state media claimed, citing a social media post by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), that Chinese companies are continuing to push forward with the construction of up to 20 offshore nuclear power platforms that it intends to deploy, perhaps among other places, to “speed up the commercial development” throughout the South China Sea.  After the report, the social media posting was reportedly deleted, likely to diminish the profile of this company in the event of potential sanctions or other market penalties in the period ahead.  This announcement comes in the immediate aftermath of the the ruling against China issued by the International Court of Arbitration, striking down China‘s claim to contested waters encroaching on the Philippines.

China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation‘s (CSIC) subsidiary, Bohai Heavy Industry, was named as the head contractor on this project, which, according to the media coverage, continues without interruption.  The China National Nuclear Corporation (per Chinese media) claimed that the nuclear power platforms are intended to ‘‘‘provide energy and freshwater to the Nansha Islands,‘ referring to the disputed Spratly Islands ‘‘‘ an unprecedented use for maritime nuclear reactors.

News of the nuclear reactors is not new, however, as pointed out by several observers ‘‘‘ and as reported on previously by IntelTrak and RWR Advisory Group.  The public re-emergence of these intentions, however, may be a means of demonstrating that China‘s pace of military and commercial activity in the South China Sea remains unaffected by this week‘s ruling.  This comes after senior officials reiterated their ‘‘‘right‘ to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone, if they feel their security is being threatened (of fear of many as a possible consequence to the Hague ruling).