Beijing is currently focused on enhancing its military capabilities to face US threats in the Asia-Pacific. It is going all out to strengthen the navy to face the challenges in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region. At present, China operates two aircraft carriers and a third one is likely to be launched this year. However, none of them have nuclear capability. According to the South China Morning Post, PLAN’s upcoming aircraft carrier, currently under construction at Jiangnan Shipyard, will be nuclear-powered.
Nuclear-powered propulsion offers great advantages to a ship’s durability and mission profile. While countries like the UK have rejected the idea of having this system on their ship due to cost issues, the United States and France are currently the only two countries moving nuclear-powered aircraft carrier(s). The conventional carriers run on oil or coal while the nuclear reactors function via the heat generated by nuclear fission, provided by a nuclear reactor. The power plant heats water to produce steam for a turbine used to turn the ship’s propeller through a gearbox or an electric generator and motor.