First Chinese firm wins contract for Russian floating nuclear power project

A Chinese firm has been given a contract to help build a Russian floating nuclear power plant in the first commission of its kind as the two countries step up their cooperation in the sector.

China’s Wison (Nantong) Heavy Industries Co won a bid to build the hulls for two floating nuclear power plants for Rosatom, a Russian state nuclear energy corporation, at a price of US$226 million, the newspaper Kommersant reported.

The two floating nuclear power plants will be used to supply power to the Baimsky mining and processing plant in Chukotka in Russia’s far east.

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Russia completed the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, in 2019 and is building more to provide power to remote areas of the country.

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According to analysts cited by the report, the Chinese shipyard was chosen for reasons of cost effectiveness and its ability to complete the work on time.

The report said the hulls would be delivered to Russian shipyards after completion in 2023 and 2024, where key work, including the installation of reactors, would be carried out.

The head of Rosatom’s engineering division Andrey Nikipelov said earlier this year that Russia was leading the way with the technology, but China is also looking to build its own floating nuclear power plants.

In 2016, China National Nuclear Corporation announced plans to build 20 in the South China Sea. Analysts said at the time that the floating plants could help the country strengthen its presence in the disputed waters.

The country’s latest five-year plan, announced earlier this year, also included a commitment to promote the construction of floating nuclear power plants.

China and Russia have been steadily developing their relationship in the face of their shared rivalry with the United States, and energy and technology are among the main areas for cooperation, including nuclear power.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin witnessed the groundbreaking ceremony of a joint nuclear energy project this May.

Cheng Yijun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the successful bid highlighted the competitiveness of China’s manufacturing industry.

“Of course, the ‘first-time’ [involvement] is of great significance. But this project and whether nuclear power plants will be built in the South China Sea is an entirely different matter,” Cheng said.

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