B200m will go to nuclear PR

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Bangkok Post 6 September 2007

By Yuthana Praiwan

Despite safety concerns among the public, the Energy Ministry has decided to move forward with the plan to build the country's first nuclear power stations and aims to open the first plant in 2021.

A budget of 200 million baht will be allocated to public relations over the next three years in an attempt to win public support for nuclear power, according to Supin Panyarak, who chairs a communication sub-committee for the programme.

The proposal was discussed yesterday at a meeting of a new nuclear power infrastructure committee chaired by Dr Kopr Kritayakirana, who serves as an adviser to the Science and Technology minister.

Authorities will also conduct a feasibility study, power system planning and a site survey with the process scheduled to be finished in 2010.

The pre-project budget has not been decided yet.

The committee contends that nuclear power is a clean and cheap method of electricity generation, compared to natural gas, oil, hydropower and coal.

However, Mr Supin acknowledged that significant challenges remain.

''Obtaining public approval is the hardest task. ... If the majority of the country is still afraid of the drastic impact of a nuclear explosion, we can't move forward,'' he said.

''What we really need to do is eliminate the terrible image of the Chernobyl explosion case. Most people do not understand the benefits of [atomic energy], they only talk about its deep impact in case of error.''

Under the nuclear infrastructure preparation plan, after the decision is made, the site selection and pre-construction process would proceed from 2010 to 2015 and construction would begin in 2015.

Mr Supin said that every process from pre-project to production start-up required approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the central intergovernmental agency for scientific co-operation in the nuclear field.

He said the country's Atomic Energy for Peace Act would also need to be amended to allow the Office of Atomic Energy for Peace to effectively regulate nuclear power in compliance with IAEA safety requirements, which state that a regulator must monitor the project at all stages.

The existing act only permits the office to govern the usage of nuclear applications in food processing and medicine. Thailand has had a small research reactor for more than three decades.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has already released more than 100,000 copies of a comic book to students nationwide as part of its campaign to increase awareness of nuclear energy.