Thailand launches nuclear energy study

04 February 2008

On his last day as Thailand's energy minister, Piyasvasti Amranand officially inaugurated a study into the use of nuclear energy in the country.


The three-year, $44 million study will be conducted by the newly created Nuclear Power Development Office (NPDO), the Bangkok Post reported. The NPDO was officially opened by the energy ministry on 31 January. The working panel will be chaired by Norkhun Sitthiphong, the current deputy permanent secretary for Thailand's energy ministry. The cost of the study will be borne by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and the Energy Conservation Fund.


Inaugurating the study on 1 February, Piyasvasti said that the preparation procedure involved various elements, including a feasibility study, site selection, public acceptance plan, and development of the required technical skills for local personnel. He also said that amendments to national legislation was required to expand the permitted use of nuclear technology beyond food, medical and military research applications. Thailand has had an operating research reactor since 1977 and a larger one is under construction. The legislation would also cover safety standards to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


During his term as energy minister, Piyasvasti has vigorously promoted the use of alternative fuels through a power demand-side management program, providing soft loans and subsidies for energy-saving systems. The nuclear energy study group would, according to Piyasvasti, abandon its work if studies showed that other fuels would be cheaper than nuclear.


Kopr Kritaykirana, an adviser to the project, said that if the government embraces the plan, construction of a nuclear power plant in Thailand could begin in 2014.


The Bangkok Post said the Thai government would now seek a public relations agency to conduct a public education plan to promote understanding of nuclear energy. A new elected government is expected to take office this week, replacing the previous military-installed government.


Thailand currently relies on natural gas for about two-thirds of its electricity production, with the remainder coming from coal and hydropower. Electricity demand currently exceeds generating capacity, forcing Thailand to import electricity from neighbouring Laos and Malaysia.