Mekong Utility Watch

AECL wraps up five-year effort to assist Thai feasibility study

Nucleonics Week
August 12, 1999

Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) has completed a five-year joint project with the Thai government to help Thailand upgrade expertise and evaluate the feasibility of a nuclear energy program.

Thailand has been considering launching a nuclear power program since 1973. Nuclear power was put into Thailand’s energy plans in the early 1990s but has been delayed again in the aftermath of the country’s 1997 economic collapse. Current plans call for Thailand to generate in 2010 about three-quarters of its electricity with gas, supplied by two pipelines, a prospect some government planners view with trepidation.

According to one IAEA official, “a nuclear energy Program in Thailand is probably about 10 years away. The two biggest problems they have to solve are securing financing and getting enough skilled people.”

For the last three years, the AECL project was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). As the work headed toward an expected close in mid-1999, AECL moved its regional office from Jakarta to Bangkok.. According to some Canadian officials, AECL made the move after a wave of unrest washed over Indonesia in 1998. Until then., AECL had likewise encouraged Indonesia to embark on a power reactor program. Today, AECL, U.S., and European,vendors all say that the prospects for nuclear power in Indonesia have been set back considerably by the prolonged political and economic crisis there.

In Thailand, however, AECI, continued through its economic crisis to work with the Organization for Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP), Thailand’s primary nuclear research and regulatory agency, and with the Thai Electricity Generating Authority (EGAT).

The AECL-Thai project got under way, according to a memo written by AECL Asia-Pacific Vice President Terry Thompson, because “Thailand has been studying the feasibility of a nuclear power program, and. AECL was requested to assist with the upgrading of current academics and people in industry as well as the development of an adequate supply of new technical personnel,for academic, industry, utility, regulatory, and other government agencies.”

AECL set up a chair of nuclear engineering at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Some Canadian expertise was provided by McMaster University and the University of New Brunswick. After the first three years the project was funded by CIDA. Chulalongkorn University graduated 36 students with masters’ degrees in nuclear engineering and developed 35 new courses attended by over 400 participants. There were 110 exchange visits between Thai and Canadian experts, and a public education program on basic nuclear science “reached every secondary school in Thailand,” Thompson said.

In addition to Thailand, AECL is also focusing on reactor marketing prospects in Vietnam. Last year, AECL and South Korea’s Daewoo agreed to jointly market Candus there. AECL, Daewoo, and Vietnamese organizations perform a pre-feasibility study for a Candu program in Vietnam.

Lead Vietnamese agencies involved are the Vietnam Institute of Energy and the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (Vinatom); these two will draft a master plan for atomic energy use in Vietnam. Vinatom is investigating the possibility of setting up a nuclear power program based on PWRs or BWRS, as well as the Candu.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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