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Cablegate: Thailand Aims for Nuclear Power Plant by 2020

DE RUEHBK #3711/01 3570752
R 220752Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 127423

1. (SBU) Summary. Thailand has expressed commitment to
nuclear energy and hopes to build an operational nuclear
power plant by 2020. Potential obstacles towards achieving
this goal include political instability, the current
financial crisis, and negative public opinion towards nuclear
power plants. Thailand has created governmental bodies to
oversee regulation and operation of nuclear power plants,
although the roles of various agencies need to be more
clearly defined. Thailand is also not yet a signatory to a
number of internal safety, security, and liability
conventions, most notably the Convention on Nuclear Safety
and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear
Damage. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Per reftel A, post has gathered information on
Thailand's civil nuclear energy industry and keyed responses
to reftel's queries as follows:

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3. (SBU) Describe any plans for the development of nuclear
power in your country. Also, describe any existing or
planned nuclear power related facilities in your country,
such as uranium mining, if any. Do you foresee an expansion
of these facilities?

The Royal Thai Government (RTG) approved Thailand's Power
Development Plan 2007-2021 (PDP 2007) in June 2007. The PDP
2007 stipulates that the RTG consider building a 2,000
megawatt nuclear power plant by 2020 and another 2,000 plant
by 2021 (see reftel B). Currently, the RTG is conducting a
feasibility study to identify sites, suppliers, and fuel
selection; as well as examine funding and licensing schemes.
The RTG will make a final decision on nuclear power plants
around 2011. The RTG established the Nuclear Power Program
Development Office (NPPDO) to coordinate and oversee the
implementation of nuclear power plants. Thailand currently
operates a small two megawatt nuclear research reactor, but
this plant does not generate electricity.

4. (SBU) If your country is considering the pursuit of
nuclear power, describe the underlying motivations (e.g.,
current or anticipated power shortages, energy security, or
other industrial uses, such as desalination).

The RTG identified energy security; concerns over global
warming; maintenance of energy price and stability; and
retention of natural gas in the Gulf of Thailand as the
primary motivations for building nuclear power plants.
Currently, natural gas from the Gulf of Thailand accounts for
about 70% of Thailand's electricity, although gas supplies
are being depleted. Thailand has also been affected by the
volatility in oil prices.

5. (SBU) If there are plans to pursue nuclear power,
describe anticipated government role in the financing of its
civil nuclear sector. For example, does the government plan
to provide subsidies, tax breaks, loan guarantees, or other
financial incentives? Would some or all nuclear power plants
be state-owned enterprises? Would you seek financing from
international investment banks and organizations or
consortium arrangements?

The RTG will address these concerns in their feasibility
study, which should be completed in late 2009. The NPPDO has
expressed interest in all of the financing schemes mentioned

6. (SBU) What are the names and titles of the key nuclear
decision making government bodies and top officials?

The NNPDO, an agency under the Ministry of Energy, takes the
lead on overseeing and implementing the introduction of
nuclear power; and the Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP), under
the Ministry of Science and Technology, acts as the nuclear
regulatory body. However, based on conversations with NNPDO
and OAP, there appears to be confusion over these two leading
agencies roles in the nuclear energy industry (see reftel B).
In addition, the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology
(TINT), a quasi-governmental organization, carries out
nuclear research.

The key officials are:
Dr. Pornchai Rujiprapa, Permanent Secretary of Energy,
Ministry of Energy; Dr. Kopr Kritayakirana, Chairman, Nuclear

BANGKOK 00003711 002 OF 003

Power Infrastructure Preparation Committee; Mr. Sirichai
Keinmeesuke, Secretary General, Office of Atoms for Peace;
Mr. Viraphol Jirapraditkul, Director General, Energy Policy
and Planning Office; and Mr. Kraisi Karnasuta, Governor,
Electricty Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

7. (SBU) Does your country have an existing nuclear
regulatory authority? What are its inspection/enforcement
powers? IF so, how large is it (i.e., how many people does
it employ)? If not, are there plans to establish such an

OAP, which is part of the Ministry of Science and Technology,
serves as the nuclear safety regulatory body. Currently, OAP
employs 400 civil servants of whom 20 are engineers or
scientists responsible for inspection. In past discussion
with OAP, the agency has expressed great interest in getting
training and support from U.S. experts in the areas of laws,
regulations, licensing procedures, and creating international
liability regimes.

8. (SBU) Does your country have a domestic nuclear
liability law? If so, please summarize its major elements.
In particular, is there a minimum level of required liability
coverage required for operation? If your country is not
party to an international liability regime, is there any
consideration being given to joining one? If so, which
international liability regime (Vienna Convention, Paris
Convention, Convention on Supplementary Compensation for
Nuclear Damage) is being considered?

Thailand has not implemented a domestic nuclear liability
law, but is in the process of studying liability regimes.
Thailand is also not a party to an international liability
regime, in particular the Conventions on Nuclear Safety and
Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (see ref B).
When Embassy officials met with NNPDO and OAP, the agencies
expressed interest in learning about U.S. regulatory laws as
well as the legal implications of the various international
conventions on liability.

9. (SBU) Is the manufacturing base in your country
(including high-tech components and heavy industry) involved
in nuclear related products or services? Does it seem likely
that any components or contracting services for new plants
could be sourced locally, or would the majority of these need
to be imported?

Thailand's manufacturing base does not appear to be involved
in nuclear related products or services at this time. Based
on conversations with NNPDO and AOP, it seems likely that
many components and contracting services for new plants will
need to be imported, although the feasibility study aims to
identify the needs.

10. (SBU) How extensive is your country's nuclear-trained
workforce? Does your country have significant engineering,
technician, and construction base that could be readily
converted into a nuclear workforce (e.g., engineers, high
precision manufacturing, robust quality assurance programs,
high quality construction)? Will the development of civil
nuclear power require a significant foreign workforce? Are
programs in place, or being developed, for training or
domestic personnel (e.g., in skilled trades and nuclear

Thailand lacks a nuclear-trained workforce in all aspects of
the industry, from engineering to construction, largely due
to the fact that Thailand has not had an active nuclear
energy industry. Most experts in the field have retired.
The feasibility study will also address workforce issues.

11. (SBU) Does your country have any current or anticipated
nuclear related tenders? If so, please describe the
tender/selection process for new contracts, its timing, and
indicate any U.S. firms considering bidding.

There are no active tenders at this time. However, the RTG
awarded a subsidiary of U.S. firm Burns and Roe the U.S. $6
million contract for conducting the feasibility study.

12. (SBU) What nuclear sector opportunities do you foresee
for U.S. industry (e.g., feasibility studies or other
consulting services, plant construction management, reactor
sales, fuel cycle service provision, plant operations, waste
management, or logistics)?

BANGKOK 00003711 003 OF 003

The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service anticipates opportunities
for U.S. industry in all the above mentioned sectors.

13. (SBU) If applicable, what are the primary companies
(domestic and foreign) involved in (or considering
involvement in) your country's civil nuclear sector? Please
include utilities, plant operators, fuel cycle service
providers, technology vendors, and major construction or
consulting firms.

The primary companies who may be involved in the civil
nuclear sector in the future appear to be the companies who
are now actively involved in the power and electricity
industry. These include the state-owned Electricity
Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT); Black and Veatch;
GE; and Burns and Roe. Japanese firms in the power and
electricity industry also seem likely to compete for
contracts, although it is too early to determine which
Japanese companies are involved.

14. (SBU) Are there other nuclear supplier countries
engaging your country? Please describe any available details
on formal agreements including existing or potential (1) MOUs
on nuclear cooperation; (2) legal frameworks for nuclear
commerce; or (3) arrangements for technical or information

South Korea and Thailand signed a MOU in 2004 to promote
cooperation in nuclear energy. NNPDO also claims Japan,
France, Australia, and Korea have also provided technical
assistance. RTG is still developing legal frameworks for
nuclear commerce. NNPDO and OAP have expressed interest in
learning from U.S. regulatory and commerce experts. Thailand
has also requested support from IAEA experts regarding
nuclear regulatory and procedural matters.

15. (SBU) Are there any political considerations your
country may take into account when choosing to cooperate with
competing nuclear supplier states?

Thailand's lack of political stability, the global financial
crisis, and anti-nuclear power plant sentiment in the Thai
population may play a large role in determining whether goals
of constructing an operational nuclear power plant by 2020
are realized.

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