HONG KONG, Oct. 11 (UPI) — China is developing what could be the world’s smallest nuclear power plant.
The compact lead-cooled reactor is small enough to fit inside a shipping container measuring about 6 meters in length and 2.6 meters in height, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology said they expect to dispatch the first unit within five years by ship – raising the possibility the reactors could be used on reclaimed land in the South China Sea.
The nuclear plant can supply enough power to make a small island economically sustainable.
One reactor can generate 10 megawatts of heat which, converted to electricity, would be sufficient to supply power to about 50,000 households, according to the report.
Chinese scientists also say the reactor can operate for decades without refueling, while producing neither dust nor smoke.
If the plant activates, China would be the first country to use the technology on land.
In the ’70s, the former Soviet Union used a compact lead-cooled thermal reactor in its nuclear submarines.
But the possibility the plant would be used in the South China Sea is raising concerns among scientists.
A marine scientist at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao said the plant would release hot radioactive water into the ocean that would then spread across the ecosystem.
The researcher who declined to be identified said, “Many fish and marine creatures will not be able to deal with the dramatic change of environment caused by massive desalination and the rise of sea temperatures caused by a nuclear reactor.”
Land reclamation activities in the Spratly Islands have decimated nearly 300 acres of coral reefs in the area, according to the report.