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Chinese boffins build nuclear-powered deep-sea station

Underwater mining plans a step closer

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Not content with ambitious plans to dominate space exploration over the coming decades, China is also looking to master the ocean with the development of a deep-sea station which could be its first step towards large-scale underwater mining.

Plans for the nuclear powered mobile deep-sea station were unveiled earlier this year by China Ship Scientific Research Centre – the state-owned venture whose Jiaolong manned submersible recently reached depths of 7,000 metres – according to South China Morning Post.

The craft would have dimensions of 60.2m x 15.8m x 9.7m, weigh about 2,600 tonnes, and have enough room for 33 crew members.

It would have propellers to move submarine-like underwater and several ports to allow smaller craft to dock with it, the report said.

On that note, a smaller prototype which could carry 12 crew on an 18-day expedition is currently in production, with an expected delivery date of 2015.

While China’s plans in space appear to revolve heavily around military strategy, its deep sea efforts have more to do with the country finding an answer to its current energy problems.

Drilling for oil and mining copper and other natural resources both appear to be high on the list of China’s deep-sea priorities, although technological limitations may hold back advances in the project for some time, the report claims.

When China wants something it usually succeeds in the end, however, so it would not be out of the question to see the launch of a full-sized deep-sea station by 2030, according to SCMP.

As with most elements of Chinese technology innovation, the PLA is never too far away – this deep-sea project is apparently funded by 863 Program, a hi-tech state scheme with close ties to the military. ®

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