Deuterium: China’s major interest in the Philippine seas?

I visited Davao City a month ago and got an interesting story in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown. Circulating among the middle class and intellectuals is the theory that China’s interest in the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise is not oil or your typical marine resources but Deuterium —a colorless, odorless, nontoxic, diatomic, flammable gas which, when burned, releases only water vapor to the atmosphere unlike other fossil fuels. Hence, environmentally, it is one of the best, if not the best, energy source on the planet.

Deuterium is widely used in prototype fusion reactors and has their application in military, industrial and scientific fields. It is is used in nuclear power, fusion power, deuterated optical fibers, deuterated lubricants, lasers, light bulbs, R & D laboratories, and annealing semi-conductor rims.

In nuclear fusion reactors, it is used as a tracer and it is responsible to slow down neutrons in heavy water moderated fission reactors.

Deuterium is not radioactive and could even be used for medicinal purposes.

Deuterium is still understudied but it promises to be the fuel of the future offering a better and cleaner energy. In its raw form, it is also believed to be a “coolant” for nuclear reactors and may be useful in mitigating nuclear meltdowns similar to Chernobyl or that of Fukushima. And China, being a country that is becoming dependent on nuclear power, needs to search for alternative energy that is safer or, at least, something that can ensure the safety of its current nuclear reactors. Currently, China has 45 nuclear power reactors in operation, about 15 under construction, and more about to start construction according to the World Nuclear Association.

There are claims that Deuterium is currently found in the deepest parts of the oceans including the Philippine Deep and other waters surrounding the Philippine archipelago. But while the chemical properties and uses of Deuterium is uncontested, the claims of its presence in the Philippine waters is. A South China Morning Post writer in 2004, for instance, considered this a science fiction without offering any scientific evidence that could debunk the claims.

Assuming that the presence of Deuterium in the Philippine waters is indeed a hoax, why is it that China has been going out of its “Nine-Dash Line” entering the uncontested Philippine territory passing by Tawi-tawi, patrolling the Turtle Islands, and surveying the Benham Rise. If the interest of the dragon is just a territory, why risk its reputation and just be contented with the 200 exclusive economic zone that is accepted by more countries around the world?

Interestingly, the Philippine President who is known to lean more to China, diverted his “jetski ride” to the Benham Rise, which allegedly contains more Deuterium than in the West Philippine Sea, rather than go straight to the Spratly Islands or, if just for a show, in the territorial waters of Bataan or Zambales where Chinese ships are also doing surveys? And, ironically, why is this kind of story circulating in the very city where the President lives? Aren’t conspiracy theories supposed to hatched somewhere else?

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