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Tuesday June 12, 2007

Thailand to build nuclear power plants


BANGKOK: Thailand plans to build its first two nuclear power plants for about US$6bil to meet rising electricity demand and cut reliance on fuel imports, the country's energy authority said. 

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand would build the plants, its governor Kraisi Karnasuta said in an interview yesterday. Each plant will be able to generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity. 

South-East Asia's second biggest economy may need to double electricity generating capacity by 2021 as economic growth boosts demand for power, according to the energy ministry. 

“Thailand cannot depend too much on natural gas because gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand will run out very soon,'' he said. “Coal is cheap, but the environmental costs that come with it are unquantifiable.'' 

Nuclear plants would generate electricity at 2.01 baht a kilowatt hour, compared with 2.05 baht for coal-fired plants, Kraisi said. 

The energy ministry has said it plans to complete the plants by 2021 and appointed six commissions to draft construction plans. The commissions will study international regulations and implement public relations programmes to win acceptance for nuclear power. 

The plant construction would take about six years, Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand said in March. 

Thailand should focus on alternative power supplies from hydropower and smaller biofuel plants before risking nuclear, Tara Buakamsri, a Bangkok-based campaigner for Greenpeace South-East Asia, said yesterday. 

Lower production costs may be outweighed by the price of disposing of uranium waste and compensating communities to accommodate the plants, he said. 

“It will be much harder to convince any community to allow construction of nuclear power plants in their areas than coal-fired power plants,'' Tara said. “The Chernobyl incident remains deep in the minds of most people.'' 

Chernobyl, a city in north-central Ukraine, remains uninhabited as a result of a major nuclear power plant accident nearby in 1986. 

The required investment was much greater than coal or gas-fired plants because “it needs a vast area and expensive equipment to prevent any radioactivity leakage,'' Kraisi said. 

“Nuclear is the best alternative for the country to keep power costs under control,'' Minister Piyasvasti told reporters. – Bloomberg

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