China build­ing tiny nuke plants

> Portable re­ac­tors based on ‘un­safe’ de­sign to be de­ployed in South China Sea

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

BEIJING: China has de­vel­oped a nu­clear power plant so small it can fit in­side a ship­ping con­tainer to help its ef­forts to take con­trol of dis­puted is­lands in the South China Sea.

The re­ac­tor, which was partly funded by the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, will be used to sup­ply elec­tric­ity to new set­tle­ments and de­sali­nate sea wa­ter for drink­ing.

Many of the is­lands, such as the Spratlys, are lit­tle more than rocks in the sea, but a num­ber of coun­tries in the re­gion claim own­er­ship as they are key to con­trol of valu­able fish­ing grounds and pos­si­bly min­eral rights.

The re­ac­tor is based on a de­sign used in 1970s Soviet sub­marines, which one Bri­tish ex­pert de­scribed as “fun­da­men­tally un­safe”.

The South China Morn­ing Post re­ported the new re­ac­tor, be­lieved to be the small­est ever cre­ated for civil­ian use, had been de­vel­oped by re­searchers at the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences’ In­sti­tute of Nu­clear En­ergy Safety Tech­nol­ogy.

They told the pa­per they hoped to send the first re­ac­tor to the South China Sea in the next five years and it could also be sold to other coun­tries.

The re­searchers said the tech­nol­ogy used was sim­i­lar to lead-cooled ther­mal re­ac­tors used by Soviet sub­marines.

The UK has ex­pressed an in­ter­est in us­ing small mod­u­lar nu­clear re­ac­tors, which could pro­vide heat to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity.

But John Large, a Bri­tish in­de­pen­dent nu­clear con­sul­tant who ad­vised the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment af­ter the nu­clear sub­ma­rine Kursk sank in 2000, dis­missed the sug­ges­tion it might be an op­tion.

“The lead-bis­muth re­ac­tor, in my opin­ion, wouldn’t be de­vel­opable to an ac­cept­ably safe point be­cause it is fun­da­men­tally un­safe,” he said.

Large said while the Soviet sub­marines pow­ered by the re­ac­tors had been “very, very fast”, reach­ing speeds of up to 45 knots, they were also “well-known for killing off their crews with ra­di­a­tion”.

A marine en­vi­ron­ment re­searcher at the Ocean Univer­sity of China, who did not want to be named, also ex­pressed con­cern say­ing that marine life would be gravely af­fected by “the dra­matic change of en­vi­ron­ment caused by mas­sive de­sali­na­tion and the rise of sea tem­per­a­tures caused by a nu­clear re­ac­tor”.

She said in the event of a nu­clear dis­as­ter in the South China Sea, peo­ple of main­land China would not be af­fected due to the great dis­tance but the ra­dioac­tive waste “will likely end up on our din­ing ta­bles” through af­fected seafood. – The In­de­pen­dent

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