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Egat signs nuclear feasibility study contract with US firm
[November 07, 2008]

Egat signs nuclear feasibility study contract with US firm

(Bangkok Post (Thailand) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 6--The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) signed a contract yesterday with a US-based consulting company to conduct a feasibility study for the country's first nuclear power plant.

The engineering firm Burns and Roe Asia will be paid 174 million baht for a 20-month study. The contract is part of 1.34 billion baht budgeted for the preparation stage of the nuclear power project.

The firm will start by whittling Egat's 14 potential sites for a nuclear power plant down to three finalists and submit the list to the cabinet along with financial projections and recommendations on appropriate technology. The cabinet will decide whether to press ahead with nuclear power in late 2010.

"The feasibility study will cover nuclear power plant safety, radioactive waste, the location, environmental impact, personnel planning and development, and suitability for nuclear technology," said Kamol Takabut, Egat's assistant governor.

Egat said it was searching for alternatives to fossil fuels. Thailand relies on natural gas for two-thirds of its electricity production, with the rest from coal and hydropower.

Under the state power development plan, Thailand's reliance on natural gas will be cut to 40 percent in 2020 from its peak of 74 percent in 2009. Nuclear power will provide 5 percent in 2020 and 10 percent a year later.

Thailand's power demand is higher than its production capacity, forcing the kingdom to import electricity from neighbours such as Laos and Malaysia, which exposes it to price volatility.

Thai government officials previously said they could begin construction on a nuclear plant as early as 2014.

Power generation from nuclear fuel costs 2.08 baht per unit (kilowatt/hour) compared to 2.10 baht per unit for coal and natural gas.

Mr Kamol said the country foresaw global crude oil reserves running out in 40 years and Thailand's natural gas reserves dwindling in the next 20 years. "Nuclear could perhaps be the last resort for serving our electricity demand."

K. Keith Roe, president of Burns and Roe Inc, the consulting firm's US parent, said nuclear power accounted for 12-14 percent of global energy production.

"Given that the world population should grow by another 40 percent by the year 2050, energy needs will definitely be growing at an accelerating pace," Mr Roe said. "Egat's decision to develop nuclear energy is in line with the worldwide movement to deploy nuclear energy. The US gets 20 percent of its energy from nuclear power, and applications for 25 percent more have been approved for development."

He believes that each country has to decide on whether to accept the technology. "Given cautious study, public safety designs, and considering the environmental benefits, many countries have accepted nuclear power."

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