Signalling its grand plans in the disputed South China Sea Islands, China will install floating nuclear plants aimed at powering the remote islands. Under the plan, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) will set up floating nuclear power plants to expedite offshore exploration in the South China Sea.

China has been on an island building spree in the South China Sea despite disputes with countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam etc.

The small reactors, which are planned to be built in Chinese shipyards, will be mounted on large sea-going barges that can be moved to any desired location for feeding power. These barges can then be connected to local grids or oil rigs, reports CNN.

Maybe China is taking a leaf from the US lead when the latter mounted a submarine nuclear power plant on the Liberty ship, Sturgis, way back in 1966 to power the Panama Canal.

But the timing of moving nuclear reactors has triggered questions on why now? and what about safety and the costs.

The grand nuclear reactor plan envisages completing 58 power reactors by 2020 and building 100 gigawatt-sized reactors by 2030 for making China the largest nuclear power producer in the world.

Russia is also making similar moves and is building a floating nuclear plant with reactors being readied at a shipyard in St Petersburg.

China’s nuclear plan is more ambitious than that. It will begin the construction of the floating power plant in 2017 and electricity generation will start on 2020. The first plant is likely to be stationed on Hainan Island in South China.

The available specifics suggest that China will be using small modular reactors of 50 or 100MW for alternative applications such as industrial steam supply, desalination, heating and remote power supplies. The miniature reactors will follow water reactor technology and although small, the designs will have all the main components of large reactors.

Meanwhile, senior officials from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Singapore for talks.

Hinting a new cordiality, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told media persons that they had candid and in-depth discussions. He said China and ASEAN have more common interests than differences.

The 22nd China-ASEAN Senior Officials Consultation was in-depth, reports CCTV.

“The meeting over the last two days has reinforced the point that ASEAN’s partnership with China is substantive, mutually-beneficial and positive. We reaffirmed the commitment of all parties to fully and effectively implement the DOC to better manage the increase tension in the South China Sea,” Chee Wee Kiong, permanent secretary of Foreign Affairs of Singapore.

South China Sea has been a boiling territorial dispute among China and ASEAN countries with the Philippines taking China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague where China has refused to participate.