Japanese nuclear expertise sought
Local fuel levies going up today
YUTHANA PRAIWAN & BLOOMBERG NEWS
Thailand has asked Japan to help build its first nuclear power plant as it seeks to reduce reliance on gas, oil and coal.
Energy Minister Poonpirom Liptapanlop said the country was seeking reactor-operation expertise and advice on nuclear legislation and developing workers for the industry.
She made the comment after a meeting in Tokyo yesterday with Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshihiro Nikai.
Thailand aims to complete a 2,000- Megawatt nuclear plant in 2020 and a further plant with the same capacity in 2021, she said after the discussion.
The country wants to cut dependence on natural gas, which accounts for more than 70% of its power generation. Japan operates 55 reactors.
''The next three-year period will be our preparation phase, during which we will conduct law-amendment, build technology, and develop human resources,'' Lt Gen Poonpirom said. ''We would like broad nuclear co-operation with Japan.''
Japan wants markets for its reactors and plant parts. Hitachi Ltd and partner General Electric Co have started informal talks with Thailand, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations to sell newly developed mid-sized reactors.
Hitachi's compact reactor is capable of producing between 600 and 900 MW.
Thailand may need to double electricity generating capacity by 2021 as economic growth boosts demand for power. The two planned nuclear plants may generate 10% of total output, requiring an investment of about US$6 billion, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has estimated.
Japan and Thailand must agree on a treaty that will ensure the transfer of nuclear power technology is for peaceful, civilian purposes. The ministers did not discuss the treaty during their meeting, Lt Gen Poonpirom said.
''It is also very important that we can gain public acceptance of nuclear power generation,'' she said.
They also discussed alternative energy sources including biofuels.
As well, the minister visited Toyota's hybrid-car factory and Kansai Electric Power Co, Japan's second-largest utility, during her stay in Japan.
Nuclear power accounts for 25% of Japan's power production and the figure is forecast to reach 40% by 2030.
In another development, the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC) yesterday gave approval to the state Oil Fund to resume collecting a levy of 0.30 baht a litre from petrol, ethanol-based petrol and high-speed diesel starting from today.
''Our decision came because of the fund's poor cash flow. We are worried about liquidity as the fund just cleared its debt early this year,'' said Pornchai Rujiprapa, the Energy Ministry's permanent secretary.
The committee also expects global oil prices to fall sharply, and combined with the recent excise tax breaks for petrol, motorists should not feel much impact, he said.
The new rate of levy collection per litre to the fund will be 3.75 baht for premium petrol, 3.30 baht for regular petrol, 0.55 baht for premium gasohol, and 0.05 baht for regular gasohol because of a 0.25 baht subsidy. There will be a 0.30 baht subsidy for gasohol E20, a 20% ethanol blend with petrol.
High-speed diesel will be levied at 0.40 baht, while the ministry will cut the subsidy for diesel B5, a mixture of 5% biofuel with diesel, to only one baht from 1.30 baht earlier.
The Oil Fund's revenue will double to 34.4 million baht a day in order to finance alternative fuel development in the future with products such as E85, an 85% ethanol blend with petrol.