Thailand freezes nuclear power plant plans

Thailand has frozen its plans to build its own nuclear power plants in the wake of the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan following a series of meltdowns at the quake-hit power complex in Fukushima.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban announced yesterday that the government would indefinitely halt all plans to build nuclear facilities in the Kingdom.

Mr Suthep, who is also minister-in-charge of national security, said: ‘I don’t want to press on with the nuclear plant construction plan as I don’t want Thai people to risk their lives.’

He added that the nuclear situation in Japan ‘is not worrying for Thailand as it is far away’.

His comments came a day after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered the Energy Ministry to review its plan to build five nuclear power plants in various provinces across Thailand, South-east Asia’s second- largest economy.

The ministry is studying two key issues in detail: emergency measures, and the potential of nuclear plants to be terrorist targets.

Mr Abhisit has also instructed all related public agencies to monitor and assess the ongoing situation in Japan’s atomic power plants closely.

Under its current 20- year power development plan, Thailand will have five nuclear power plants with a combined generating capacity of 5,000 megawatts by 2025.

Government spokesman Panithan Wattanayagorn, however, told reporters on Monday that Mr Abhisit ‘personally does not favour’ the construction of nuclear plants in Thailand.

‘His concern is mounting given the problems in Japan if Thailand is to adopt the Japanese model. Even with high technology, Japan has not yet been able to restore the cooling system. This shows there are flaws even when you have excellent technology,’ he said.

The U-turn by the government is certain to cheer various civil groups that recently formed an alliance to protest against the planned construction of nuclear power plants in up to eight shortlisted provinces.

Thailand’s decision to suspend its atomic power plans indefinitely follows a similar action by Switzerland, which last week froze its proposal to replace and build new nuclear plants.

Malaysia, which had intentions to establish its first atomic power plant by 2021, has now said it wants to learn from Japan before making its next move. India, meanwhile, will undergo a safety review of its 20 reactors before committing to a plan to spend US$175 billion on nuclear energy over the next 20 years.

Other countries such as Indonesia - which is planning four plants by 2025 - are of the view that governments should look at nuclear power as a secure energy supply to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels.

There are 442 reactors globally that supply about 15 per cent of the world’s electricity, with a further 65 under construction, according to the London- based World Nuclear Association. There are plans to build more than 155 additional reactors, most of them in Asia, with 65 of these already underway.

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