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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        18  March 2011

Nuclear safety in Thailand needs review

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Thai Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul Thursday broke his silence on plans for Thailand's first nuclear power plant scheduled to operate from 2020, admitting the project should be reviewed by energy policy planners.

As concern grows about the possible spread of radiation from the Japanese nuclear disaster, Mr Wannarat said the panel in charge of Thailand's 20-year power development plan (PDP) from 2010-30 must look more closely at safety measures and new technology that could handle serious accidents.

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently advised the Energy Ministry that Thailand is not yet ready for a nuclear power plant, as three salient issues must still be addressed.

They are relevant laws and a supervisory regulator, public awareness and acceptance of nuclear power, and adoption of an international protocol.

The PDP, which was reviewed last April, calls for nuclear energy to account for 11 percent of power generation by 2030, with lignite and imported coal making up 24 percent, natural gas 39 percent, purchases from neighbouring countries 20 percent and renewable energy 6 percent.

Natural gas currently accounts for 72 per cent of all fuel used in power generation in Thailand, followed by coal at 20 percent, domestic hydropower 5 percent and imported power from Laos 2 per cent.

The PDP calls for five nuclear power plants with capacity of 1,000 megawatts each to come online from 2020-28 and new coal-fired plants producing a combined 8,000 MW from 2016-30.

Norkhun Sitthipong, the permanent secretary for energy, agreed the ministry should revise the PDP to reflect the current situation, particularly regarding nuclear power.

"We must have a Plan B in case people say no to nuclear power or imported coal, or else the new nuclear and coal development plan will need to be delayed," said Mr Norkhun.

Other options instead of nuclear power include increases in liquefied natural gas imports and power purchases from neighbouring countries, along with more intensive development of small power producers and renewable energy.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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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