Thailand report: NNAF 2008

           Alternative Energy Project for Sustainability (AEPS)


Since the early 70s Thai government has been urging nuclear power as an energy source in Thailand. Whenever, the government stated about such policy, there would be an immediate resistance from the Thai public. Presently, Thailand has a research nuclear reactor (two MW) in Bangkok. This reactor was a gift from the US government presented to Thailand in 1962.

In 1993, the government approved to build a 10 MW research reactor under the new nuclear research center project in Ongkharak district. But the project was opposed by the local communities during 1998-2002, and along with corruption problem, the project could not operate up till. (We must thank to NNAF for the helpful information support through the network to our campaign) However, the project has not yet been scraped. But maybe it will come back in soon, with new purpose to support the preparation plan for NPP.)

For the past 30 years, Thai public has given strong resistances to the use of nuclear power energy. However, the rise of the fuel price, the wide-spread of “the global warming” issue, the strong movements against coal-fired power plants in Thailand have caused public concerns over the energy consumptions in Thailand. Moreover, the 19 September's coup d’tate has resulted in undemocratic government. This less democratic administrative has given more room for the proponents of nuclear power energy to reintroduce the use of nuclear energy in the country.

NPP projects were approved

In early 2007, the military government has approved the new Power Development Plan (PDP). The PDP proposes a long term national power development plan in the next 15 years. According to the plan, the government would be committed by its policy to build 4,000 MW nuclear power plants in the year 2020-2021. The government has appointed six committees to pave the way for the future nuclear power plants in several areas (laws, construction sites, public acceptance and so on.) The government also institutes an office for nuclear reactor project development and allocated 1.8 billion bahts for the project of which 600 million bahts is designated for public relation activities for three years.

The undemocratic administration which did not allow public inputs and participations could be considered as the factors of the resurgence of nuclear power in Thailand.
The government and its concerned agencies have been using one-sided and distorted information about Thailand's energy situation, signifying that we do not have any other energy alternatives except the nuclear power. The most concern is that the private sectors have expressed their intensive roles in supporting the nuclear power. In addition, some media that used to examine the government have changed their perception about nuclear power issue as well.

At the end of 2007, Ministry of Energy took group of senior media staff to visit Finland, Germany, and France to see coal-fired and nuclear power operations. The hidden agenda was to encourage these columnists to help convey more positive sides and advantages of the nuclear power. The most obvious propaganda is the message that even European countries have been reconsidering the nuclear power by referring to Finland and France. The two countries are constructing new nuclear power plants. Furthermore, Japan is referred to as an example of the only country in the world that even experienced nuclear energy mishaps and calamities but Japanese remain their supports of the nuclear power. Moreover, Japan even has more nuclear power plants built recently.

Last April, many private sectors, including The Thai Bankers’ Association, The Federation of Thai Industries, and Thai Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade of Thailand had launched a public support for nuclear power and urging the government to accelerate in implementing the nuclear projects sooner than stated plans. They expected that the next 13 years, the nuclear power should come online. They laid a claim about an increasing energy cost in the future and business competitiveness in the region since both Vietnam and Indonesia are planning to utilize nuclear power.

Although the government has been informing the public that they are only conducting the feasibility study of the projects, it is quite clear that the government has an actual plan to construct nuclear power plants in the 2014. In order to operate the nuclear power within the year 2020, the government has planned four-phase action plans:

Phase 1  2008 - 2010 Conducting public campaign; public relations to achieve public acceptance of nuclear power
Phase 2  2011 - 2013 Setting up the nuclear power plant projects
Phase 3  2014 - 2019 Having nuclear power plant constructions
Phase 4  2020 - 2021 Operating nuclear power plants.

The government has not yet specified the prospective locations to construct the power plants. However we realize that their targeted locations would be around Chumporn, Ranong, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Sri Thammarat in the southern part of Thailand, in which the people are not aware about this issue. The locals have not yet reacted to the matter this due to the fact the government has not yet specified the construction site. No NGO distributes information about nuclear energy in the area.

Interestingly, last March, Minister of Energy had conducted a press conference informing the media that “people in some provinces sending letters to express their desires to have nuclear power plant construction in their provinces, however, such provinces are in the central region of Thailand which are not suitable location to have the nuclear power plant constructed.” The phenomenon reflects a concern that must not be overlooked about the state propaganda strategies in promoting nuclear power. More techniques have been introduced. For example, the government has issued a law to provide funds for community. The funds aim to reduce potential resistance among villagers in the areas where power plants will be built. The Community Development Funds stipulates that if a new power plant is being constructed, the project holders; both public and private sectors must provide funds to the communities located near the power plants. The funds would derive from the sales of electricity. For many communities, such amount of money is considered a really big chunk of money. This would likely create more community divisions in the future.

What we are doing.

For the past few years, we have established the Sustainable Energy Network Thailand (SENT) in order to campaigning about the state's shortcoming energy policy. Our network consists of a number of small NGOs that are AEPS, Palang Thai, Confederation of Consumer Organization Thailand, and some academics. SENT has been campaigning about revision of the PDP and the nuclear power energy.

We are well aware that the real force to stop the nuclear power plant is mainly came from community's awareness and understanding which would lead to their resistance. However, we have numerous obstacles in starting the intensive campaigns at the community level due to the fact that the four prospect provinces are extensive area for small organizations like us.

Our immediate preliminary plan is to focus on producing various pamphlets and videos about pros and cons of the nuclear energy and its consequences. Those media booklets are to be distributed to the people in all four provinces. In addition, we plan to organize the public forum at the end of this year (maybe in October or November) in order to titling the balance of the supporters of nuclear power has been doing during this year. We plan to invite representatives from NNAF to participate in this meeting. This meeting aims to raise a public awareness among the Thai. They should have more chances to learn about adverse consequences of nuclear power from our members.

The No Nukes Asia Forum (NNAF) was held in Kashiwazaki City (Niigata Prefecture) and Tokyo from 28 June to 1 July 2008.
Nuclear energy opponents from Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand joined Japanese activists to protest their governments’ nuclear power plans, to refute the argument that nuclear power was the answer to global warming and to call for the closure of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant.
NNAF 2008 was held in advance of the first anniversary of the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake, which rocked the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant on July 16, 2007. The plant has been shut down since the earthquake. The threat that earthquakes pose for nuclear power plants is a shared concern for several of the countries represented at NNAF 2008.