Southeast Asian countries agreed to establish a regional nuclear energy safety network, amid warnings from environmental activists
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2007 11:19:40 -0700
ASEAN agrees to set up nuclear energy safety network
1 hour, 12 minutes ago
SINGAPORE (AFP) - Southeast Asian countries agreed Thursday to
establish a regional nuclear energy safety network, amid warnings from
environmental activists that the risks of atomic power outweigh the
Energy ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) tasked senior officials to work out the details of the ASEAN
Nuclear Energy Safety Sub-Sector Network, they said at the end of a
one-day meeting here.
The officials are to report on their progress before the next meeting
of the 10-member bloc's energy ministers in Thailand next year, a
joint statement said.
As the ministers launched into talks, the global environmental
watchdog Greenpeace urged them to drop plans to generate civilian
nuclear power across the region, citing safety concerns and the risk
of weapons proliferation.
Three ASEAN member states -- Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam -- have
so far announced plans to build nuclear power plants by 2020 in a bid
to cut their dependence on crude oil and natural gas, sparking
concerns over safeguards.
"We say this is a very dangerous pathway if it is followed," said Nur
Hidayati, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast
"We say this is not a solution because it creates more problems and it
will last a long time."
But Thai Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand defended the decision by
some ASEAN states to develop nuclear power capabilities, stressing the
plants are generally safe and do not contribute to greenhouse gas
He said civilian use of nuclear power was making a resurgence
worldwide, with 30 new plants under construction.
The three ASEAN countries planning to build plants will "spend a
certain amount of time making preparations" to ensure safety
standards, the Thai minister said.
"Nuclear technology is actually safe, very safe as shown by the
various incidents... Nuclear power plants are the safest kinds of
buildings built on Earth," he told a news conference.
Thailand is planning to build a 4,000-megawatt plant by 2020.
Kurujit Nakornthap, Thailand's deputy permanent secretary of energy,
told a forum here Wednesday that Bangkok needs until 2014 to develop
safety standards, establish the regulatory framework and train the
It will need another six years to build the plant.
Piyasvasti said it was unfair to say that nuclear plants were unsafe
based on the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine, then
part of the Soviet Union.
"Chernobyl was a bad design, badly operated and (used) outdated Soviet
technology which is no longer in operation anywhere in the world," he
But Greenpeace activists insisted the region does not have the
expertise and the personnel to operate nuclear power plants and store
radioactive waste, warning of the possible danger should plutonium get
into the wrong hands.
Plutonium is a key ingredient for the making of a nuclear bomb.
During their annual meeting in Manila last month, ASEAN foreign
ministers discussed how they could strengthen rules to ensure that
civilian atomic energy is not used for non-peaceful ends.
With the region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, it was
doubtful if ASEAN members had the capability to deal with a nuclear
plant leak, it said.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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