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. Thailand To Build First Nuclear Plant

Thailand first flirted with nuclear power 30 years ago but the idea was dropped after it found natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand. But with natural gas now running low, the government's latest 15-year Power Development Plan, which runs through 2021, for the first time called for considering nuclear as a new energy source.
by Nareerat Wiriyapong
Bangkok (AFP) June 12, 2007
Thailand's largest energy utility said Tuesday it will invest six billion dollars to build the country's first nuclear power plant, expected to start operations in 2020. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) said it planned to build the nuclear plant to produce 4,000 Megawatts of electricity as part of the nation's long-term energy planning to cope with a looming power shortage.

"Building a nuclear power plant is unavoidable for Thailand given the current pace of rising electricity demand," EGAT governor Kraisi Kanasuta told AFP.

Thailand currently relies on natural gas for 70 percent of its electricity, with the rest coming from oil, coal and hydro-power.

One third of the natural gas consumed in Thailand is imported, mainly from neighbouring Myanmar, and Kraisi said EGAT was worried about a future spike in prices due to its limited reserves.

Thailand spent 912 billion baht (26 billion dollars) on energy imports last year, up 16 percent, according to the energy ministry.

To finance the six-billion-dollar nuclear investment, EGAT, a state enterprise under the ministry, said it will consider issuing bonds and seek offshore loans.

It will also recruit Thai engineers to study nuclear technology in the United States, Europe and Japan, with Japan's Toshiba, Westinghouse of the United States, now owned by the Japanese company, and French firm Areva offering to build the power plant.

EGAT said no decision has been made yet on a constructor.

The nuclear fuel for the plant could come from Australia, Canada or South Africa, an energy ministry spokesman said.

Environmentalists have argued that building a nuclear plant is costly, citing a recent report by environmental group Greenpeace that found constuction costs frequently run over budget -- sometimes by as much as 300 percent.

EGAT's Kraisi disagreed.

"Despite high total investment costs, the nuclear utility is cheaper than a coal power plant in terms of costs of production per unit," he said.

Thai environmentalist Tara Buakamsri from Greenpeace argued the government should invest in promoting renewable energy sources instead of nuclear power.

"Nuclear power is very expensive and dangerous. The government is talking about diversifying energy resources but they are not talking about promoting renewable energy such as bio-fuel and wind power," Tara said.

"If we have a nuclear plant, what are we going to do with nuclear waste in the future?" he said.

Thailand first flirted with nuclear power 30 years ago but the idea was dropped after it found natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand.

But with natural gas now running low, the government's latest 15-year Power Development Plan, which runs through 2021, for the first time called for considering nuclear as a new energy source.

The energy ministry said going nuclear would help Thailand reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that fuel climate change. Thailand currently produces 240 million tonnes of green house gases every year.

Thailand has signed both the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which which control potential military uses of nuclear technology.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Related Links
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT)
Civil Nuclear Energy Science, Technology and News
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com

Thousands Of Protestors Rally Against Indonesian Nuclear Plant
Jakarta (AFP) June 12, 2007
Thousands of protestors rallied Tuesday in Indonesia's Central Java, calling on the government to abandon plans to build a nuclear power plant on the outskirts of their city, organisers said. The government, under increasing pressure to improve energy supplies to the world's fourth most populous nation, plans to built its first plant on the foothills of Mount Muria, a dormant volcano on the north coast of Java island.

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