Power move: the nuclear salesmen target the third world.When the tall, well-spoken Swede swede: see turnip. arrived in Bangkok in November 1991, Thai government officials, journalists, and academics thought they were about to get good advice on how to meet Thailand's rapidly growing electric power needs. After all, Hans Blix , as director general of the (born 28 June, 1928 in Uppsala, Sweden) is a Swedish diplomat and politician. He was Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs (1978 - 1979). International Atomic Energy Agency International Atomic Energy Agency: see Atomic Energy Agency, International.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
International organization officially founded in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. (IAEA IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency. ), a Vienna-based United Nations organization, carried an implicit international stamp of approval for his message: it is time to start building nuclear power plants.
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the Bangkok Post The Bangkok Post is a broadsheet English-language daily newspaper published in Bangkok, Thailand. The first issue came out on August 1, 1946. It was four pages and cost 1 baht. , Blix told his Thai hosts, "In the longer term it is inevitable and indispensable to use nuclear power and therefore any developing countries with fairly high levels of development, like Thailand, must begin to prepare for a nuclear period." The occasion for these unabashed remarks was a regional seminar on nuclear power, jointly organized by the IAEA and two Thai government agencies.
Much of the audience was understandably impressed. To keep pace with its staggering economic growth rate, Thailand needs more electricity--fast. Its peak power demand has already risen 150 percent in the past decade and is projected to more than double again by 2010.
The free advice being offered the Thai authorities by the IAEA seemed compelling: it offered a way for Thailand's power industry to leap straight to the 21st century, avoiding the use of unreliable and polluting pol·lute
tr.v. pol·lut·ed, pol·lut·ing, pol·lutes
1. To make unfit for or harmful to living things, especially by the addition of waste matter. See Synonyms at contaminate.
2. fossil fuels.
The IAEA and the nuclear industry have found ready allies in the government-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT EGAT Electricity Generating Authority (Thailand)
EGAT Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand ), one of the agencies co-sponsoring the seminar. In keeping with the IAEA's advice, EGAT has draw up plans for the construction of six nuclear power plants to be completed between 2006 and 2010--enough to meet a quarter of Thailand's projected power needs.
The Thai electric utility has long been drawn to what it perceives as the status associated with using nuclear energy--the "developed" world's power source. As early as 1967, the electric utility signed a contract for a plant that would come on line in 1975. However, the projected costs rose and residents protested, causing authorities in the province to tell the government to put the plant elsewhere. As a result, the project was delayed indefinitely. But with the support of the IAEA and foreign nuclear companies--and power demands growing faster than expected--EGAT suddenly saw its chances of securing government approval of nuclear energy radically increasing. After the 1991 nuclear seminar, EGAT spokesman Suphin Panyamark was quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying he was "confident the public in general will understand the choice of generating electricity from nuclear power." But other government officials were unconvinced. There has been a raging debate over nuclear power ever since, chiefly focused on its safety and costs.
As a result, to win over skeptical factions in the Thai government, the IAEA launched a joint, three-year feasibility study The analysis of a problem to determine if it can be solved effectively. The operational (will it work?), economical (costs and benefits) and technical (can it be built?) aspects are part of the study. Results of the study determine whether the solution should be implemented. in 1991 with EGAT and four other energy-related government agencies. The Thai electric utility is looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. study results to eventually give it a green light to build the plants. It argues that Thailand now relies on natural gas for more than a third of its electricity, and if demand rises as projected, the region will run short of supplies early in the next decade--making nuclear energy a necessary and affordable path. The cost of building nuclear plants, according to EGAT, will be only $1,430 per kilowatt kilowatt: see watt. , making nuclear energy comparable in price to the electricity Thailand currently produces in power plants that burn imported coal. What the Thai electric utility has not acknowledged--and what Blix failed to discuss with his hosts--is that Thailand has many other electricity options that are far less costly than nuclear power. After a comprehensive study of the country's energy sector late last year, the World Bank strongly advised Thailand against building any nuclear plants. The bank's report concluded that relying on natural gas, even if it has to be imported in liquified form from Indonesia or the Persian Gulf Persian Gulf, arm of the Arabian Sea, 90,000 sq mi (233,100 sq km), between the Arabian peninsula and Iran, extending c.600 mi (970 km) from the Shatt al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Gulf of Oman. , would be cheaper for Thailand than nuclear energy. It also estimates that nuclear power will cost Thailand $2,000 to $3,000 per kilowatt--50 to 100 percent higher than the figure used by EGAT, which came from a study by a private Japanese consulting firm Noun 1. consulting firm - a firm of experts providing professional advice to an organization for a fee
business firm, firm, house - the members of a business organization that owns or operates one or more establishments; "he worked for a . As of December, the Thai utility had not released that study to the World Bank for analysis. The World Bank findings are consistent with its general policy of not lending money for nuclear power because it does not meet the bank's "least cost" criteria. Although the U.N. can advocate nuclear power via the IAEA, it has no similar agencies in place to promote renewable energy Renewable energy utilizes natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, and hydroelectricity to biomass and biofuels for transportation. , natural gas, oil, coal, or Thailand's best energy investment of all--improving the efficiency of its existing electricity supply. "Demand-side management" aims to find ways to reduce overall demand for electricity without curtailing utilities' services. The country has already made modest steps toward demand-side management, with EGAT currently planning to save 4 percent of projected new power demand over the next five years by installing more efficient lights and appliances in customers' buildings at less than half the price of new power plants. Peter du Pont Du Pont (dpŏnt), family notable in U.S. industrial history. The Du Pont family's importance began when Eleuthère Irénée Du Pont established a gunpowder mill on the , head of the International Institute for Energy Conservation's Bangkok office, says that Thailand could meet 20 percent of its projected growth in power needs using demand-side management.
Since the 1991 IAEA seminar, despite EGAT's enthusiasm for nuclear energy, other elements of the Thai government have been strengthening their opposition to the construction of nuclear plants in Thailand. Tinawat Marukpitak, chair of the House Standing Committee on Environment, has been lobbying against nuclear energy for years because of safety concerns and Thailand's (as well as the world's) lack of capacity to handle high-level waste. Late in 1993, the Thai Cabinet approved a long-term energy development plan that omitted explicit reference See explicit link. to nuclear power, ordering EGAT and Thailand's National Energy Policy Office to further study the cost, safety, and disposal issues associated with nuclear energy--a move that signals a significant reversal in Thailand's pro-nuclear tide. In response to this, Tinawat and other government officials are pushing for a provision requiring nuclear vendors to take back their high-level waste--a mandate that would almost surely send the industry packing. Meanwhile, public opposition to the generation of nuclear power in Thailand is increasing. Although the government has allocated some $36 million to EGAT for a pro-nuclear education campaign, it seems unlikely that such efforts will win over the Thai public, given its strong opposition to nuclear energy in the past. As the nuclear debate rages on, Thailand--and other energy-hungry Asian countries that are being lobbied by the nuclear industry--would do well to question the forces that brought the nuclear proponents and the International Atomic Energy Agency to its doorstep in the first place.
The nuclear industry has been edged out of markets around the world during the past decade. In the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , no new reactor has been ordered and subsequently completed in 20 years. The Canadian nuclear industry was stung by Ontario Hydro's cancellation of orders for 12 new reactors two years ago. In France, just four reactors remain under construction. Despite Japan's ambitious plans for the expansion of nuclear energy, its lack of sites for reactors all but guarantee they'll fall short.
So, like Western cigarette vendors searching the world for untarnished markets to peddle their product before its bad reputation at home catches up with it, nuclear vendors are trying to hook the Third World on nuclear power. Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, region of Asia (1990 est. pop. 442,500,000), c.1,740,000 sq mi (4,506,600 sq km), bounded roughly by the Indian subcontinent on the west, China on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the east. may be one of the industry's last hopes.
The shriveling demand for nuclear energy threatens the IAEA's current role, so it has an interest in working with the industry to try to hold onto its turf. Founded in 1957 as an outgrowth of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace "Atoms for Peace" was the title of a speech delivered by Dwight D. Eisenhower to the UN General Assembly in New York City on December 8, 1953.
The United States then launched an "Atoms for Peace" program that supplied equipment and information to schools, hospitals, and " initiative, the IAEA has the dual mandate A dual mandate is a term used for a person who has been elected to two different bodies with different competencies, for example being a member of both a national legislature, and of a local authority. of controlling the use of fissionable fis·sion·a·ble
Capable of undergoing fission: fissionable nuclear material.
fis material and developing peaceful applications for atomic energy atomic energy: see nuclear energy. . Indeed, its charter calls for it to "seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world ... including the production of electric power, with due consideration for the needs of the under-developed areas of the world."
As part of its promotional mandate, the IAEA organizes seminars on the merits on the merits adj. referring to a judgment, decision or ruling of a court based upon the facts presented in evidence and the law applied to that evidence. A judge decides a case "on the merits" when he/she bases the decision on the fundamental issues and considers of nuclear energy, such as the one in Thailand, and "feasibility" studies in developing countries. In June 1993, it held a seminar in Poland on "nuclear power development in countries neighboring neigh·bor
1. One who lives near or next to another.
2. A person, place, or thing adjacent to or located near another.
3. A fellow human.
4. Used as a form of familiar address.
v. Poland" and, according to its newsletter, is planning similar seminars in Seoul and Shanghai, paid for by extrabudgetary contributions from the Japanese government. A recently completed IAEA study of nuclear prospects in Indonesia "not so surprisingly, says that it is feasible," says Agus Sari of the Indonesian Center for Energy and Environment.
Since the IAEA's creation nearly 40 years ago, the world has learned a great deal about the downside of nuclear technologies. Far from delivering the promised electricity "too cheap to meter," nuclear energy turned out to be far more expensive than other power sources. From Chernobyl to Three Mile Island, history has disproven the guaranteed safety claims made by the commercial nuclear power industry. At the same time, governments have failed to develop a safe, permanent means of disposing of nuclear wastes that will last thousands of years.
In the wake of these complications, several nations have acknowledged the serious conflict of interest in having a single agency in charge of both promoting and regulating nuclear energy. The United States addressed this conflict more than two decades ago, when it split its Atomic Energy Commission Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), former U.S. government commission created by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and charged with the development and control of the U.S. atomic energy program following World War II. into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission--a regulatory body--and what is now called the U.S. Department of Energy--a second, broader agency that conducts energy research and development and administers a range of informational and commercial programs.
But the IAEA has continued, with its dual role unchanged. This has led to the bizarre situation of an agency lobbying to promote nuclear technology in developing countries at the same time that it is in charge of policing the world to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons. As a result of this contradiction, the IAEA has assisted countries that have gone on to use their nuclear power programs as a guise for developing nuclear bombs. Iraq and North Korea are only the most recent examples.
Meanwhile, as the United States, Europe, and other regions of the world are re-stacking their energy priorities to incorporate renewables, efficiency, and a dramatically different mix of fossil fuel options than they have relied on in the past, the United Nations' energy strategy has remained unchanged for decades. The IAEA, with its pro-nuclear mandate, is still the only U.N. energy agency. At a time when its entire system is struggling for funding--and credibility--the U.N. has much to gain from reassessing its energy strategy. And the IAEA, meanwhile, could save institutional energy by not working against itself.
Megan Ryan is a staff researcher at the Worldwatch Institute The Worldwatch Institute is a globally-focused environmental research organization. Based in Washington, D.C., the institute was founded in 1974 by Lester Brown. Christopher Flavin is the current president. .