With Russian help, Asean looks to nuclear-powered future
BANGKOK — Several Asean nations are jumping on the nuclear-power bandwagon.
Nuclear power generation appears to be an emerging trend in Asean with many countries signing up for related technologies.
Seven Asean nations, including Thailand, have already signed cooperation agreements with Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear energy agency.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has also revealed it is working with China, Japan and South Korea on nuclear power generation technology and sent 100 specialists to train for nuclear power plant projects.
If everything goes as planned, up to 5 per cent of the country’s power generation will be generated from nuclear sources by 2036.
But for that plan to materialize, Egat will first have to ease the concerns of nuclear technology opponents.
While many experts say nuclear energy is safe and useful to ensure the country’s power security, others have warned the negative aspects of nuclear power could outweigh its benefits.
Silpakorn University Faculty of Science lecturer Renu Vejaratpimol cautioned that nuclear power plants could be dangerous if security is not sufficient and, should there be a nuclear meltdown, a large area around the stricken plant would become inhabitable – as happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima. “As we have seen in Europe, nuclear power plants can be a target for terrorism. My concern is that Thailand is not ready for this kind of incident,” she said.
Somporn Chongkum, former director of the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology, has argued that Thailand should not shy away from nuclear power plants.
“We are going to be left behind by our neighbors if we still too afraid to introduce nuclear power. We have to learn more and understand that nuclear energy is safe and significant in order to assure the power stability of the country,” Somporn said, adding that the country’s energy demand is increasing.
Vietnam has already signed an agreement with Rosatom to build the country’s first nuclear power plant, while the country has also signed a similar agreement with Japan to construct a second nuclear power plant.
According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), both nuclear power plants in Vietnam will be situated in Ninh Thuan province. The Ninh Thuan 1 plant, which will be built by Rosatom beginning in 2020, will have a total capacity of 2,400 megawatts. The Ninh Thuan 2 nuclear power plant, built by Japan, will have 2,000MW capacity and be complete by 2025.
Somporn added that Indonesia and Cambodia were also keen to start their own nuclear power plant projects as well.
WNA reported that Rosatom had announced a consortium with Indonesian companies to build a 10MW experimental nuclear power reactor at Serpong near Jakata. The national energy development plan stated that Indonesia would be supplied with 5 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2025.
Cambodia also recently signed deals with Rosatom to establish an information centre and a bilateral working group on nuclear energy. “We have prepared for a nuclear power plant project for more than 30 years. We also have passed most International Atomic Energy Agency standards to build a nuclear power plant,” Somporn said.
However, energy expert Prasart Meetam said the nuclear technology was already obsolete and many developed countries were closing down their plants to phase in renewable energy.
“There are around 430 nuclear power plants around the globe currently, but the number of closing down plants is higher than the new plants. Nuclear power may have been the finest power source in the past, but it is now a sunset technology,” Prasart said.
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