Thailand And Philippines “Charging Ahead” With Plans To Embrace Nuclear Power

Among the growing list of countries embracing nuclear are now both Thailand and the Philippines, both of whom are “charging ahead” with plans to start nuclear reactors, according to a new report from Nikkei.

In September, Thailand plans to reveal a national energy strategy extending to 2037, featuring the deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) with a combined capacity of 70 megawatts. Despite previous nuclear ambitions halted by the Fukushima disaster in 2011, SMRs have renewed Thailand’s interest due to their safety and smaller size. The same has been true in places like the U.S., the U.K., and China.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, discussing nuclear power prospects with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, emphasised research into SMR safety and public consultation. Thailand is realising what the rest of the world is starting to wake up to: that nuclear is the solution to the ‘green’ energy issue. Nikkei notes that as Thailand’s natural gas reserves dwindle and electricity demand surges, the move towards nuclear energy supports its 2050 carbon neutrality goal.

Similarly, the Philippines plans to build a nuclear facility by the early 2030s, bolstered by a U.S. civil nuclear agreement. This initiative revives ambitions from the era of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., aiming to fulfil a long-standing vision under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Indonesia aims to add 1,000 to 2,000 MW of nuclear capacity by the 2030s, shifting from a coal-heavy energy mix towards a 2060 carbon neutrality target. Despite Southeast Asia’s renewable energy efforts, the region’s high energy costs and absence of operational nuclear plants underscore the challenges ahead. Business leaders like Dhanin Chearavanont advocate for nuclear energy as crucial for economic progress.

Safety concerns persist, highlighted by a 2023 incident involving lost radioactive material in Thailand. Additionally, Myanmar’s increasing nuclear collaboration with Russia amidst international isolation raises fears of military misuse of nuclear technology.

Kei Koga, associate professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, commented to Nikkei: “If Southeast Asia becomes involved in the competition between global powers to export nuclear technology, it could lead to fragmentation in the region.”

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