The construction of China’s first maritime nuclear power platform (floating NPP) in the South China Sea is due to be completed by 2018 and be put into operation by 2019, according to the Chinese newspaper Global Times on 22 April. The newspaper quoted analysts as saying that such a platform could considerably boost the efficiency of China’s ongoing construction work on islands in the South China Sea.

Liu Zhengguo, head of the general office of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), which is responsible for designing and assembling the platforms, told Global Times that the CSIS is "pushing forward with the work". He added: "The development of nuclear power platforms is a burgeoning trend. The exact number of plants to be built [by the CSIC] depends on market demand. Judging by various factors … the demand is pretty strong." Earlier in April, it was reported that China plans to construct at least 20 maritime nuclear power platforms "in the future".

Global Times cited Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, as saying that the platforms will add to reliable power supplies for lighthouses, rescue and relief equipment as well as airports and harbours on the South China Sea islands. "Given the long distance between the Nansha Islands and the Chinese mainland and the changing weather conditions, transporting fuel could be an issue, which is why developing the maritime nuclear power platform is of great significance," he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying played down the story as a media report, however. "I’ve not heard here of the relevant situation," Hua told a daily news briefing, without elaborating.

In January, Xu Dazhe, the director of the China Atomic Energy Authority, told reporters in Beijing that China was planning to develop offshore floating nuclear energy plants, saying they "must undergo a rigorous, scientific evaluation," but also linking these to China’s desire to become a "maritime power". Also in January, two Chinese state-owned energy companies, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), signed a strategic cooperation framework pact on offshore oil and nuclear power. CGN has been developing a small modular nuclear reactor for maritime use (ACPR50S) to provide power for offshore oil and gas exploration and production. It expects to begin building a demonstration project in 2017.