Chinese researchers have sought environmental approval for a new climate change research station in Antarctica.
Under the Antarctic treaty regulations, Australian officials are responsible for environmental approval of such projects.
The new Chinese research station – part of an international network – would be based on Inexpressible Island in Terra Nova Bay, in the Northern Victoria Land region.
“China believes that understanding climate change impacts on Antarctica is a matter of critical importance for the world and for the continent itself,” the environmental approval submission says.
“The main purpose of the new Chinese station is to provide an international platform for regional multidisciplinary research focusing on the chain reactions caused by the changing climate.”
China has conducted more than two dozen expeditions to Antarctica since 1984.
It currently operates two year-round stations – Great Wall station at King George Island and the Zhongshan station in the Larsemann Hills – as well as one summer station, Kunlun, on Dome A, the highest place in Antarctica.
The new station’s researchers will study atmospheric and atmosphere-ice-ocean interaction, glacial and ice shelf-ocean interaction, ecosystem monitoring, space phenomena and geology.
Construction is planned to start in December 2015 and the station would start operating in early 2017.
The 5528-square-metre facility will be home to 80 personnel in summer and 30 in winter, when temperatures have been as low as minus 43 Celsius.
The 200-page environmental submission by the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration sets out its plans to mitigate such things as air pollution, potential fuel and oil leakage, solid waste, waste water discharge and disturbance to nearby penguins and other wildlife.
Key to the proposal is a hybrid solar-wind-diesel power supply system and wastewater recycling.
China is also looking at building an aviation network to support researchers and deal with emergencies.
The Chinese government recently bought a Basler BT-67 aircraft with modified scientific instruments, which is expected to be in use by the end of 2015.
The Australian Antarctic Division has invited public comment by March 21.