Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thailand plans for nuclear power by 2020

Atomic energy seen as efficient, cost-effective

Singapore _ Thailand plans to generate 4,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2020 under a plan to find alternative sources of energy, a senior Energy Ministry official said yesterday.

Deputy permanent secretary for energy Kurujit Nakornthap told an Asean energy business forum in Singapore that the government needs seven years from 2007 to develop safety standards, establish the regulatory framework and train the necessary personnel. Another six years would be needed after that to complete the plant's construction, he added.

The decision to include atomic energy in its long-term development plan was made because nuclear energy is recognised as efficient and cost-effective, and emits no carbon dioxide.

Nuclear safety issues are expected to feature prominently in talks among Southeast Asian ministers in Singapore today, as more countries look to nuclear as an alternative amid soaring oil prices, diplomatic sources said.

Energy ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will hold a one-day meeting _ first among themselves and then with counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea.

Energy ministers from Australia, India and New Zealand will join the meeting later in the day, the Singapore government said in a statement.

Diplomatic sources said a key topic will be safety issues, following a move by several countries in the region to build nuclear plants to meet growing electricity needs and reduce dependence on oil and natural gas.

In addition to Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have announced plans to tap nuclear energy, but environmentalists have warned about safety risks as the region does not have the expertise to operate such plants and deal with nuclear waste disposal.

The Thai government has not decided on the location of the plant but Ranong, Chumphon and Surat Thani, all close to the sea in order to supply water to the plant, have emerged as possible sites.

The armed forces recently offered their Sattahip naval base in Chon Buri as a possible site if other sites face opposition, but the offer could not be confirmed.

Korb Krittayakeeron, a former National Science and Technology Development Agency official, is chairman of a committee on the feasibility of the plant.

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