The government will be notified of the possi ble location of Thailand's first nuclear power plant late next year at the earliest, a panellist told a roundtable last week.
Samerjai Suksumek, director of the strategic energy policy and planŽning division of the Nuclear Power Programme Development Office (NPPDO), said during the discussion "Nuclear Power, an Alternative Against Global Warming" organised by Krungthep Turakij that the results of a study on the subject should be ready for the government in 2010 at the latest.
He said Thailand should give serious thought to building a nuclear-power plant to reduce its heavy reliance on natural gas.
"We are relying on natural gas too much, and the supply could last only 20 years, while coal is unacceptable on pollution grounds," he said.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) will on Wednesday sign a contract with Burns and Roe Asia to conduct a threeyear feasibility study on the location, technology and size of the plant.
Samerjai said the ideal location would be in the South as the plant would require a lot of cooling water and it would need over 1,000 rai to accommodate future expansion.
According to the 15-year power-development plan (2007-2021), Thailand is expected to build two nuclearpower plants with a comŽbined capacity of 4,000 megawatts. Due to safety concerns, Egat has been chosen as investor and operator of both plants, which will cost around Bt400 billion to build.
Dr Kamol Takabut, Egat assistant governor for powerplant engineerŽing, said the feasibility study would cost Bt1.34 billion, with Bt750 milŽlion from the Energy Conservation Fund and the rest from Egat.
He agreed that the government should be informed of suitable locaŽtions in 2009 or 2010 and that the plants should be in the South.
Stressing the necessity of the plants, Kamol said natural gas now accounted for 70 per cent of elecŽtricitygeneration fuel, besides oil, coal and hydropower. Nuclear would reduce fuel risks, he said, but the plan could be cancelled if new technology or a new source of power becomes available.
He said the consultant would choose whether to use boilingwater, pressurisedwater reactor or Candu (Canadian deuteriumuranium) reactors.
Pressurised water is the most popular, representing 61 per cent or 265 plants from a total of 442 operating nuclearpower plants around the world, he added.
Kamol argued that although nuclearpower plants cost more than power plants run on other fuels to build, the generating cost was lower, at Bt2.08 per unit compared to Bt2.12 for coal and Bt2.63 for bioŽmass. Solar power is the most expensive at Bt20.20.
Supin Panyamak, chairman of the nuclearpower infrastructurepreparation subcommittee on public understanding, said that once the location was known, the subcommittee would start raising public awareness, particularly on safety.
He said the public should understand that nuclear-power plants were safer than in the past.
"We will start the publicawareŽness programme when we know the location. We have to rely on marketing tools both above the line and below the line to inform the public of the benefits of nuclearpower plants," he said.