US to help Thailand develop small nuclear reactors
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US to help Thailand develop small nuclear reactors

File photo: AFP
File photo: AFP

The United States will help Thailand develop nuclear power through a new class of small reactors, part of a programme aimed at fighting climate change, US Vice President Kamala Harris announced on a visit Saturday.

The White House said the assistance was part of its Net Zero World Initiative, a project launched at last year’s Glasgow climate summit in which the US partners with the private sector and philanthropists to promote clean energy.

Thailand does not have nuclear power, with the public mood on the issue souring after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. The country has had a small research reactor since 1962. The Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology has proposed building a 20-megawatt reactor site in Ongkharak district of Nakhon Nayok but it has encountered strong community opposition.

The White House said it would offer technical assistance to the country to deploy the developing technology of small modular reactors, which are factory-built and portable. Such reactors are generally considered safer as they do not need human intervention to shut down in emergencies.

"We really look forward to working with Thailand to take advantage of the benefits of small modular reactors and reliable clean energy sources," said a senior US official travelling with Harris, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A White House statement said that US experts would work with Thailand on deploying the reactors, which will have the "highest standards of safety, security and nonproliferation" and boast a smaller land footprint than alternatives.

US rivals China and Russia, as well as Argentina, are also developing small modular reactors, the prototypes of which are in the design phase.

The White House did not give a timeline but said it would support Thailand, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, in its goal of going carbon neutral by 2065.

Harris, who is visiting the US ally for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, will discuss the nuclear power initiative in a meeting later Saturday with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The White House also announced an initiative with Thailand to boost the safety of fifth-generation internet and a project to build a "world-class" cancer treatment centre in Chon Buri province.

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