Nuclear plant will require $8 billion Construction is scheduled for 2014

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Bangkok Post 26 September 2007

By Yuthana Praiwan

Thailand's first nuclear power plant would require a massive capital investment of at least US$8 billion, according to Dr Kamol Takabut, the director of the mechanical engineering division at the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat). If and when the government decides to start construction in 2014, Egat will need to raise at least $8 billion to finance the high standard of construction required for the project.

''Atomic fuel has been used more around the globe lately. They say that a nuclear power plant is a 'clean fuel', but there are long procedures to catch up,'' he said.

Dr Kamol said that the appropriate technology from nuclear-experienced countries such as the United States, France, Japan and Korea would need to be studied in-depth to ensure Thailand's first nuclear power plant has the highest standards.

Egat is to spearhead the pilot project for Thailand's first nuclear plant. Nuclear power is expected to be a major source of energy for the country over the next decade according to the Energy Ministry's Power Development Plan (PDP).

The Nuclear Power Infrastructure Preparation Committee (NPIPC), which is helping draw up the nuclear power plan, has finished writing up the initial procedures that must be followed in the lead-up to building a plant.

Dr Kopr Kritayakirana, the NPIPC chairman, said the guidelines would be presented for approval to the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC) next month after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finishes its review. Nuclear experts from the private sector plan to review the measures this week.

The plan would establish six subcommittees to oversee legal issues and regulations, infrastructure, technology and human resources, environmental and safety standards, public acceptance and power plant utilities.

Almost a dozen laws would be amended to cover the project, covering safety standards, regulators, waste and disposal management and licence agreements.

Dr Kopr said the regulations and quality standards mainly stemmed from the International Atomic Energy Agency's code of conduct.

The infrastructure would be related to economic and financial possibilities. Human resources development and appropriate technology transfer would also be required.

He expressed hope that a solid human development plan would increase the knowledge of nuclear power among engineers from local universities.

The Energy Ministry has already begun a 2.4-billion-baht public relations campaign from 2008-11 to sell the public on the project.

Possible location surveys, power system planning, the selection of technology and a feasibility study would take place over the next four years. The decision on project construction would be made afterwards.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014. The plant would start running in 2020 and would run at full capacity in 2021.

Thailand's PDP calls for a combined nuclear power capacity of 4,000 megawatts. Ian Facer, an IAEA engineer, suggested that countries that favoured nuclear power should have IAEA technical assistance. They would also need preparation to cover all activities prior to decision making to ensure the viability of the project due to its high cost.

''They need to ensure they have a sufficient number of nuclear experts, as precise construction and plant operation management are very necessary,'' Mr Facer added.