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November 30, 2007

THAILAND: Nuclear energy
Thailand explores nuclear energy options after poor emissions report

ELEANOR HALL: Thailand might be known as the land of smiles, but the kingdom's climate experts are frowning over a report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) that's revealed that Thailand is one of the worst per capita emitters of carbon dioxide - higher even than China and India.

This surprising finding has given added impetus to the push for nuclear energy in Thailand, as South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy reports.

KAREN PERCY: It's the cool season in Thailand, and the locals are getting much-needed relief from the oppressive heat and humidity that linger for most of the year.

But now that the monsoon rains are done, another problem has emerged - smog and haze from agricultural burn-offs

 and the traffic that congests Bangkok's streets for what seems like 24 hours a day.

And this week the United Nations Development Program has revealed the extent of Thailand's pollution problem.

Total emissions of carbon dioxide have risen almost three-fold to 268 megatonnes a year.

That means Thailand now ranks 22nd in the world, as the UNDP's Thailand representative, Gwi-yeop Son told reporters in Bangkok.

GWI-YEOP SON: Per capital emissions stands at 4.2 tonnes of CO2 per person. Emissions have grown an average 12.8 per cent a year, which is higher than comparable countries.

KAREN PERCY: By contrast, growth in emissions in China was 7.8 per cent.

Industrialisation in Thailand is one factor, so too the rising middle class and their rising demand for cars, air conditioners and other modern appliances.

There are other factors too, says Kopr Kritayakirana, who's heading up a Thai group investigating nuclear power options.

KOPR KRITAYAKIRANA: I think it probably reflects the historical regional practice that we have been still using some wood as fuel while there's been some environmental regulations about carbon emission.

But I think, in general, we can still see some exhaust being given out from automobiles, and also from factories.

So I, I have not been following the precise numbers per capita and so on, but I cannot say that I'm very surprised.

KAREN PERCY: His group, the Nuclear Power Infrastructure Preparation Committee, will spend the next three years looking at how Thailand can use nuclear energy.

KOPR KRITAYAKIRANA: We are an agricultural country. We depend on rain, on irrigation, on natural water for agriculture makes us quite sensitive to climate change, and also just a general impression that weather pattern has been more fluctuating than people are familiar to.

KAREN PERCY: While nuclear might have been shunned a few years back in Thailand, rising energy costs are likely to prompt a change of heart.

The UNDP's climate change adviser, Martin Krause, is hoping Thailand will play a leading role in the region in exploring all sorts of alternatives.

MARTIN KRAUSE: If Thailand wants to get ready for cutting emissions, then it's better to embrace these new technologies, to create new industries here in Thailand and new industries that work with these new technologies, and not to leave it to the developed world to develop the technologies and then transfer the technologies down, you know, to the developing countries.

KAREN PERCY: The UNDP hopes this report will prompt some strong action as governments meet in Indonesia next week for the UN Climate Change Conference.

Courtesy ABC

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