Nuclear power scheme backed

Key Issues: 

The Nation 19 October 2007

Bid to draft law in three years after studies of locations, costs

The National Energy Policy Council yesterday approved the Nuclear Power Infrastructure Establishment Plan, which highlights the creation of a nuclear-oriented office under the Energy Ministry and the drafting of a nuclear law in three years.

Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand said after the meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Kosit Panpiemras that the Nuclear Power Plant Development Office would from 2008 to 2010 conduct in-depth studies and plans for generating techniques, locations and expenses.

"Then, the draft law should be completed in the third year. If the government agrees to proceed with the development, the draft can be pushed for implementation," Piyasvasti said.

The nuclear power plan took five months to complete, incorporating concerns from a public hearing held on Sunday and advice from local and foreign experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

An Energy Ministry source earlier said the ministry plans to launch a public-relations campaign starting this year and running until 2022 with a budget of Bt2.44 billion, or Bt195 million a year. The campaign is aimed at winning wide acceptance for nuclear power.

Nuclear power is included in the government's power development plan for 2007-2021.

While the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is charged with carrying out the development of two nuclear plants with total capacity of four gigawatts, its affiliate Electricity Generating has shown interest in bidding for such a project.

At a time when Thailand is facing declining natural-gas reserves and protests against the use of other fuels, particularly coal, the council also approved the purchase of additional power from Laos for a total of seven gigawatts, up from five gigawatts. The hydropower would be supplied to Thailand by 2015.

"This will benefit both countries. While Laos has a plenty of hydropower for sale, Thailand has the option to secure low-cost energy," Piyasvasti said.

Altogether four power deals with Laos were approved yesterday at Bt1.89-Bt1.97 per unit. So far, the Kingdom has signed purchase contracts with eight projects in Laos for a combined supply of 3.31 gigawatts.

The Metropolitan Electricity Authority's master plan to bury its wires was also approved with a budget of Bt77.7 billion. The Finance Ministry will look for local and foreign funding for the project, which will run from next year to 2022.

The council also approved the establishment of Egat International as a subsidiary of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, with initial registered capital of Bt50 million. The new state enterprise will be responsible for overseas investment.