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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        14  June 2011

Nuclear still an option for Asia

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In spite of the recent nuclear meltdown in Japan, Asian economies need to explore alternative sources of energy to meet growing demand and spur economic growth, business and industry analysts said on Monday.

“We can explore a lot of types of energy: coal-bed methane, nuclear power plants,” Karen Agustiawan, president director of state oil and gas firm Pertamina, said during a discussion on energy security challenges at the World Economic Forum in Jakarta. “Energy needs are there for Indonesia.”

She said since the country had an electrification rate of about 65 percent — which means that about 65 percent of households have access to power — more electricity was needed.

However, she added that people also needed to be educated about the risks of nuclear power.

Concerns about nuclear energy were discussed during the conference after explosions rocked nuclear reactors following the March tsunami in Japan.

“We are left way behind from Thailand and Vietnam in terms of human capital” and need to educate people about the costs and benefits of building nuclear power plants, Karen said.

“I’m not saying that there will be a [nuclear] power plant in the next two or three decades,” she said. “We need to invest in human capital first.”

She said neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam were ahead of Indonesia because they had started training technicians in the technology and educating their people.

Prashant Ruia, chief executive of India’s Essar Group, a conglomerate that has interests in the steel and energy sectors, echoed Karen’s views and said the subcontinent needed to pursue more alternative forms of energy.

“There are various options, including the nuclear power plant. I think India is going to pursue that,” he said, without providing a time frame.

According to Ruia, around 45 percent of India’s more than one billion people lived without electricity.

Both Prashant and Karen said nuclear power was less expensive than other forms of electricty generation.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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