Cambodia to build its first nuclear power plant

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Cambodia, with the help of Russia, will build its first nuclear power station in a bid to overcome its massive reliance on electricity from Thailand and Vietnam. A respective agreement was signed during Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit in Phnom Penh last week, the first such visit in almost 30 years. Russia’s state nuclear firm Rosatom will be Cambodia’s project partner and provide expertise, research and training.

The news came after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in January 2014 said that the country had “no ambition” to develop a nuclear power plant but wants to “use nuclear technologies in agriculture, health and animal breeds.”

Reuters reported Rosatom CEO Sergey Kirienko as saying that the project could start with a research reactor and a research center in Cambodia. Reportedly, one possible location for such a reactor and eventually a power plant could be the southwestern island of Koh Kong close to the Thai border.

Cambodia depends heavily on imported power, namely from Vietnam and Thailand. Electricity in the country is among the most expensive in Southeast Asia and a common source of complaint from investors.

Apart from the nuclear power station, Cambodia is seeking $3 billion in foreign investment to build six hydropower plants by 2018 to keep up with rising domestic power demand powered by an economy growing about 7 per cent a year.

So far, Nuclear power has played a limited role in Southeast Asia. This reflects the complexities of developing a nuclear power programme and the slow progress to date of most countries that have included nuclear in their long-term plans. Vietnam is the most active and is currently undertaking site preparation, work force training and the creation of a legal framework, also supported and financed by Russia. In 2010, Vietnam announced that it plans to build 14 nuclear reactors at eight sites in five provinces by 2030 to satisfy at least 15 gigawatt of nuclear power, or a ten per cent share of the total energy mix.

Thailand includes nuclear power in its Power Development Plan from 2026. While these plans could face public opposition, the country has very limited indigenous energy resources, which is expected to be a key driver behind its development. It could be possible that Thailand to start producing electricity from nuclear power plants before 2030.

The Philippines has one power reactor completed in 1984 but it never operated due to concerns about bribery and safety deficiencies. In 2007, the government set up a project to study the development of nuclear energy, in the context of an overall energy plan for the country, to reduce dependence on imported oil and coal. In 2008 an International Atomic Energy Agency mission commissioned by the government advised that the nuclear plant could be refurbished and economically and safely be operated for 30 years.

In Malaysia, the government in 2008 announced that it had no option but to commission nuclear power due to high fossil fuel prices, and set 2023 as target date. Early in 2010, the government said it had budgeted $7 billion funds for this, and sites are being investigated. In July 2014, Malaysia’s energy minister announced a feasibility study including “public acceptance” on building a nuclear power plant to operate from about 2024, with 3 to 4 reactors providing 10 to 15  per cent of the country’s electricity by 2030.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodia, with the help of Russia, will build its first nuclear power station in a bid to overcome its massive reliance on electricity from Thailand and Vietnam. A respective agreement was signed during Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit in Phnom Penh last week, the first such visit in almost 30 years. Russia’s state nuclear firm Rosatom will be Cambodia’s project partner and provide expertise, research and training.

The news came after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in January 2014 said that the country had “no ambition” to develop a nuclear power plant but wants to “use nuclear technologies in agriculture, health and animal breeds.”

Reuters reported Rosatom CEO Sergey Kirienko as saying that the project could start with a research reactor and a research center in Cambodia. Reportedly, one possible location for such a reactor and eventually a power plant could be the southwestern island of Koh Kong close to the Thai border.

Cambodia depends heavily on imported power, namely from Vietnam and Thailand. Electricity in the country is among the most expensive in Southeast Asia and a common source of complaint from investors.

Apart from the nuclear power station, Cambodia is seeking $3 billion in foreign investment to build six hydropower plants by 2018 to keep up with rising domestic power demand powered by an economy growing about 7 per cent a year.

So far, Nuclear power has played a limited role in Southeast Asia. This reflects the complexities of developing a nuclear power programme and the slow progress to date of most countries that have included nuclear in their long-term plans. Vietnam is the most active and is currently undertaking site preparation, work force training and the creation of a legal framework, also supported and financed by Russia. In 2010, Vietnam announced that it plans to build 14 nuclear reactors at eight sites in five provinces by 2030 to satisfy at least 15 gigawatt of nuclear power, or a ten per cent share of the total energy mix.

Thailand includes nuclear power in its Power Development Plan from 2026. While these plans could face public opposition, the country has very limited indigenous energy resources, which is expected to be a key driver behind its development. It could be possible that Thailand to start producing electricity from nuclear power plants before 2030.

The Philippines has one power reactor completed in 1984 but it never operated due to concerns about bribery and safety deficiencies. In 2007, the government set up a project to study the development of nuclear energy, in the context of an overall energy plan for the country, to reduce dependence on imported oil and coal. In 2008 an International Atomic Energy Agency mission commissioned by the government advised that the nuclear plant could be refurbished and economically and safely be operated for 30 years.

In Malaysia, the government in 2008 announced that it had no option but to commission nuclear power due to high fossil fuel prices, and set 2023 as target date. Early in 2010, the government said it had budgeted $7 billion funds for this, and sites are being investigated. In July 2014, Malaysia’s energy minister announced a feasibility study including “public acceptance” on building a nuclear power plant to operate from about 2024, with 3 to 4 reactors providing 10 to 15  per cent of the country’s electricity by 2030.

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