By Nareerat Wiriyapong
The Bangkok Post
January 11, 2008
The world’s four largest nuclear technology manufacturers have expressed interest in bidding for Thailand’s proposed nuclear power project.
Toshiba and Mitsubishi from Japan, Areva from France and General Electric from the US have each contacted the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) about submitting proposals to build a new nuclear plant.
Thailand hopes to have four nuclear plants, each costing at least $1 billion, in operation by 2020-21. Vietnam and Indonesia are expected to have nuclear plants operational by the same time.
Kamol Takabut, Egat’s assistant governor for power plant engineering, said Candu from Canada was also keen but that its technology may cost more.
GE and Toshiba, which earlier acquired 100% of Westinghouse, have offered boiling water reactor (BWR) technology that is used by 21% of the world’s 442 nuclear power plants.
Mitsubishi and Areva propose the more popular pressurised water reactor (PWR) used by 60% the world’s utilities.
”Both BWR and PWR require pretty much the same in terms of cost, but PWR is slightly better in terms of safety for personnel that operate the plant, so it is more popular,” Mr Kamol said.
However, he insisted that all types of nuclear power plants are safe and are fitted with automatic shutdown features. They generates no greenhouse gases.
Egat expects to complete a nuclear proposal within three years. If the government decides to begin the project, construction could start in 2015, he said.
Mr Kamol said that without nuclear power, Thailand was going to lose competitiveness to regional rivals.
Nuclear technology, despite higher investment costs, is competitive with other fuel sources in terms of cost per megawatt of electricity.
”Once Vietnam has nuclear power, it can produce goods that are cheaper than Thailand’s, so we will lose in competition to our arch rival,” Mr Kamol said.
”In the planning stage, Vietnam is already two to three years ahead of us as the government has already approved the project. It has already sent thousands of personnel to train with nuclear technology in France and Japan.”
If Thailand’s first nuclear plant is operational in 2020, nuclear energy would generate 5% of the country’s power, rising to to 9% a year after, Mr Kamol said.
”Now, as much as 70% of power generation in Thailand is dominated by natural gas and existing world reserves would last only 40 years,” he said. ”So we need both coal-fired and nuclear power plants to support rising power demand and make the whole power generation system more secure by having a balanced mixture of fuel types.”
Nuclear power accounts for 16% of the 17,450 terawatts of capacity worldwide. Apart from 442 plants now operating, 29 more are under construction.