Decision on nuclear power will be for next Govt: Wannarat

The feasibility study on a national nuclearpowerplant grid will definitely not be submitted for this government's consideration, Energy Minister Wannarat Charnnukul said yesterday.

The study was completed by Burns & Roe Asia, but the ministry still needs more information from other bodies such as the Energy Regulatory Commission, he said. Meanwhile, the law supporting the development is not yet ready.

"The new government will make a decision on whether Thailand should proceed with the nuclearpowerplant development plan," Wannarat said.

The government was earlier expected to give an answer in March on whether Thailand should proceed with the plan. Endorsement would confirm that nuclear power plants would be constructed and commence commercial operations within a specified period.

Under the Power Development Plan 2010, five nuclear plants with a combined 5,000 megawatts of capacity are foreseen, feeding power into the grid from 2020. This is part of the ministry's aim to diversify fuel risks, given that 70 per cent of power generation in the country is currently fuelled by natural gas, and the remainder by coal and hydropower.

An Energy Ministry source said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had himself told the ministry that the plan should wait for the new administration brought in after this year's general election. Officials have also been instructed to make all information ready for the incoming government.

Meanwhile, the ministry is also assigned to study a supplementary plan, in the event that the nuclearpower option is cancelled.

"Lack of support for this would create a financial problem for the Nuclear Power Programme Development Office. In this fiscal year, the office is now left with a budget of only Bt10 million. This is enough only for salary payment," the source said.

The office was established after the Surayud Chulanont government decided that the ministry should go ahead with the feasibility study. It is in charge of completing the study and educating the public about nuclear power.

The nuclearpower development programme has faced strong resistance, mainly on safety concerns. The International Atomic Energy Agency during its inspection tour in December urged the Thai authorities to speed up safety regulations, as well as personnel development and public communication.

The ministry recently shortlisted two of 17 potential sites for the nuclear plants, in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani, as the locations could accommodate the recommended lightwater reactor technology. However, locals have shown strong resistance to the plans.

Under the Power Development Plan 2010, five nuclear plants are scheduled to feed power in 2020, 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027 respectively. To meet the schedule, the implementation phase must take place between this year and 2013, so that construction can begin from 2014 to 2019.

Nuclear power is expected to reduce the Kingdom's naturalgas consumption in power generation from 70 per cent to 40 per cent.


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