Thailand 'must scrap nuclear projects'

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Bangkok Post 17 March 2011

By Achara Ashayagachat

Thailand must cancel its plan to build nuclear power plants to avoid facing a radiation crisis similar to that in Japan, community leaders say.

Sodsai Srangsok, coordinator of Ubon Ratchathani Network Against Nuclear, said the government had recently told communities that nuclear technology posed no problem for them.

"Even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said it will now be difficult to pursue the plan to build nuclear power plants here. However, relevant ministries and authorities are still speaking differently on the issue," said Ms Sodsai.

Officials said explosions at a nuclear plant in Japan might cause the government to relocate planned sites from southern provinces such as Nakhon Si Thammarat to other sites in Ubon Ratchathani or Nakhon Sawan.

They should rethink the whole power development plan (PDP), Ms Sodsai said.

Yesterday, 200 people gathered in Ubon Ratchathani to mourn the loss of lives of Japanese people in the earthquake and tsunami tragedy while soliciting donations to help survivors.

They also issued an open statement to reiterate their opposition against any state plan to build nuclear power plants in Ubon Ratchathani.

"Several other countries such as Germany have already cancelled their nuclear power plants. Thanks to the Japanese incidents, more Thai people are now more aware of the danger of such plants," Ms Sodsai said.

She said officials have only talked about the positive aspects of nuclear technology as a clean and cheap source of power generation but rarely mentioned its potential danger.

Thailand had a poor record in protecting people affected by mega projects such as Sirindhorn and Pak Moon dams but was eager to adopt more sophisticated technology to produce electricity, she said.

The government should review the PDP and look for alternative energy sources, she added.

Tara Buakhamsri, Greenpeace coordinator, said the Japanese nuclear crisis was a wake-up call for Thailand, which plans to build five nuclear plants in the next 20 years. The people had no trust and confidence that the state authority had the capability of safely handling the technology.

"It's not a question of whether the reactor is 40 years old or a new one. It's not about whether the plant is located on the fault line or not. Thailand and the region are also prone to other natural disasters that might cause nuclear leaks. We need to rethink," said Mr Tara.

Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said other Asian countries that wish to pursue nuclear technology in power generation should take the time to ensure they meet the highest safety standards.

The plan to build plants in southern China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand would be questioned more by their citizens and neighbouring states.

With the crisis in Japan, other countries should pause to reconsider their plans instead of rushing ahead with the projects, said Mr Tay.