The Recent Status of Nuclear Technology Development in Thailand

E-Journal of Advanced Maintenance (EJAM)
Vol.8, No.1, GA20

Sirinart LAOHAROJANAPHAND1, Chainarong CHERDCHU1, Tatchai SUMITRA1, Wanwisa SUDPRASERT2, Nares CHANKOW3, Kanokrat TIYAPAN4, Thawatchai ONJUN5, Duangduen BHANTHUMNAVIN6
1The Nuclear Society of Thailand 
2Kasetsart University 
3Chulalongkorn University 
4Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology 
5Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology 
6National Institute of Development Administration

1. Introduction

Following The United States under President Eisenhower statement in the United Nation Assembly to implement the plan to promote peaceful utilization of atomic energy on September 23rd 1954, the U.S. assigned delegations to various countries around the world including Thailand to seek cooperation and discuss proceeding of the nuclear utilization plan. Since then, Thailand has started the peaceful utilization of nuclear program in 1961. The program has developed considerably in various aspects. Laws and regulations were established while applications in medical, agriculture, industry as well as research and education have been accomplished successfully in the country. As for the energy production, Thailand has realized the importance of nuclear power generation several years back. However, the implementation has been delayed. 

2. Major nuclear Enterprises in Thailand

There are four main nuclear organizations namely The Thai Atomic Energy Commission- the country’s policy holder, the Office of Atoms for Peace - the nuclear regulatory bodies, Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (Public Organization) - the research and services provider in nuclear field and the Nuclear Society of Thailand the non-governmental organization.

2.1 The Thai Atomic Energy Commission (Thai A.E.C.) [1]

Royal Government of Thailand through the Cabinet had agreed to appoint a board, consisted of experts in various science-related fields, called "Committee on Atomic Energy" (which has been renamed to "Atomic Energy Commission for Peace, A.E.C" since 1956) on November 17, 1954 to confer with the Affiliated Atomic Commission of the U.S. Congress on the occasion of their official visit to Thailand. The committee reported the resultant dialogue to the Cabinet on December 7, 1954. The Cabinet later approved the plan proposed by the committee and assigned the committee to implement the plan. At that moment the Thai A.E.C.’s temporarily office was at the Department of Science Service and run by government personnel who were trained in nuclear engineering or science programs from affiliated agencies. The Prime Minister serves as the chairman the commission.

2.2 The Nuclear Society of Thailand (NST) [2]

The Nuclear Society of Thailand is the nongovernmental organization which is the gathering platform of experts in nuclear fields in the country. The objective is to support turning policies in nuclear science into actions as well as educate the public in nuclear medicine, agriculture, industry, environment, education, and power production. Promote right protection for radiation workers and the public in nuclear related matters. The society main task is to promote, support, educate, exchange knowledge, experience, and research papers for members and the public on nuclear knowledge, research, and applications. The knowledge distribution is carried out by various means like technical documents (soft and hard copies), journal, website, seminars, workshops and technology visit. Some of these activities are shown in Fig. 1 and 2. The society also provides collaboration among those interested in nuclear fields local and abroad. Recently, the nuclear society committee members led by the present president visit Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan to discuss on future collaboration on nuclear research and education.

2.3 The Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP) [1]

Established in 1961 under the Thai Atomic Energy for Peace Act of 1961, the Office of Atoms for Peace is a governmental body currently under the Ministry of Science and Technology. It functions as the official agent to regulate nuclear and radiation safety as well as provide recommendations on atomic energy administration to conform to international standards for safety of operators and the public. OAP, as national regulatory body, is responsible for ensuring safety of users and public from radiation and nuclear utilizations by educating the public, and regulating the use of nuclear energy. Moreover, as one of member states, Thailand has committed itself to developing the peaceful use of atomic energy. Thus, OAP is also the organization which responsible for organizing signings of national and international agreements, such as those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The main goal is to develop peaceful use of nuclear energy in Thailand to the same levels as in developed countries. The office is located on Vibhavadee Rangsit Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok as shown in Fig. 3.
Fig.1 International seminar to exchange knowledge on nuclear technology
Fig.2 Technology visit to the hydropower plant in the south of Thailand
Fig.3 The Office of Atoms for Peace in Bangkok, Thailand

2.4 Thailand institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT) [3]

Established under the issuance of the Royal Decree effective April 21st 2006 and the Cabinet Resolution on November 21st 2006 on transfer of business, property, authority, liability, and budget involving nuclear research have separated Thailand Nuclear Institute of Technology (Public Organization) from the Office of Atoms for Peace to mainly focus on nuclear research conduction. TINT, operable under the Ministry of Science and Technology, is responsible for carrying out nuclear research and development programs of the country. TINT also offers services on utilizing various nuclear technologies to the public. The research topics and services provided include radioisotope production, gamma radiography, neutron activation analysis, neutron radiography, gemstone irradiation, radiation modification on materials development as well as agricultural applications topics. TINT has three branches, the main office (Fig. 4.), Ongkharak Research Center, is located in Ongkharak District, Nakhonnayok Province some 70 kilometers towards the northeast of Bangkok. TINT also provides education services to the public on the matters relating to nuclear utilization. TINT is equipped with several nuclear facilities namely a 2 MW research reactor, a 450,000 curies Co-60 gamma source which serve as semi-commercial irradiation facilities on food and agricultural products, the e-beam for gemstone color enhancement, gamma cell for plant mutation. Recently TINT is undergoing the preparation for an industrial scale e-beam for irradiation of agricultural products as well as a cyclotron for isotope production.
Fig.4(a,b) The Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (Public Organization), Ongkharak, Nakhon Nayok

3. Research and Education [3-5]

Major research in nuclear technology is actively carried out at TINT. Filed of research include medical and public health, agricultural, material and industrial, environmental and advanced technology like neutron scattering and nuclear fusion. Detail of these research topics can be tracked from website.

Nuclear fusion research has been one of targeted research in Thailand since 2004. Most of activities are related to theoretical and numerical work. The results can contribute in simulating the time evolution of temperature and density profiles in TOKAMAKS. The research contributes in an essential way to the interpretation and planning of experiments, validation of theory against experimental results, development of plasma control techniques, and the design of next step devices such as ITER. Recently, the ASEAN School on plasma and nuclear fusion has been established under collaboration with CEA, France. This school aims to provide basic knowledge and recent development in the area of plasma and nuclear fusion for graduate students and young researchers in Thailand and ASEAN countries.

There are also several academic institutes that provide education in nuclear fields from undergraduate to PhD level. The earliest academic entity that offers degree in this field is the Department of Nuclear Technology at Chulalongkorn University since 1975. It offers graduate programs leading to Master of Engineering and Graduate Diploma in Nuclear Technology. At present 3 curricula were developed: Bachelor of Engineering in Nuclear Engineering, Master of Science in Nuclear Technology and Doctoral of Engineering in Nuclear Engineering. However, the B.Eng. program has not been implemented yet. International organizations, particularly the Canadian, the French and the Japanese government have helped in upgrading the Department as well as other nuclear related organizations. Additionally, nuclear engineering courses have been taught as electives for engineering students in many universities in Thailand. Moreover, nuclear physics and radiation sciences are among the common options for science students in several universities. Suranaree University of Technology in the northeastern part of the country has developed its Master and Doctoral curricula in Nuclear Engineering to be offered in the near future.

Another active academic institution offered degree in nuclear science is The Department of Applied Radiation and Isotopes at Kasetsart University. It plays an important role in nuclear education and research in various fields for more than 30 years. The Department offers both bachelor and master degrees on nuclear related works and activities. Currently, three unique curricula have been offered, i.e., Bachelor of Science in Radiation Bioscience, Bachelor of Science in Nuclear science and Master of Science in Applied Radiation and Isotopes. The international powerful programs in Nuclear Science at both master and doctoral degrees are planned to launch in a few years to support the extension of nuclear utilization in the region. In addition, an important project called “Nuclear Camp”, which corporates with other institutes such as the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and Office of Atom for Peace (OAP), is run every year by the faculty staff and students. The main objective is to disseminate the basic knowledge in radiation and nuclear technology to create right attitude of radiation related fields to the secondary school students and Thai publics.

Other academia like Chiang Mai University, Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology also conducted active research in nuclear related topics. Apart from these, nuclear related curriculum has been included in Physics Department of several universities throughout Thailand.
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4. Public Acceptance

In 2012, the NPP program Development Office, Ministry of Energy, Thailand had reported at IAEA on the topic of “Public communication program before and after Fukushima accident” [4]. The report has put strong emphasis on public acceptance of NPP which was felt to be shaken by the accident and the lack of public knowledge about nuclear power and especially the NPP. However, a study of 638 Thai students in 11th grade from three schools in Bangkok found that the knowledge and exposure to the information about the accident in Japan did not reduce their support of NPP policy nor their NPP acceptance [5].

Furthermore, a public opinion survey of seven FNCA countries (Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia, 2011) [6] found that Thai high school students emphasized the need to know three issues about NPP, namely, the effects to the environment, to health and safety in operations.

Within the last five years, Thai social psychologists and behavioral scientists have collaborated with nuclear scientists in investigating the antecedents of NPP acceptance. Knowledge about NPP was found in many correlational studies to be the most important antecedent of NPP acceptance in Thailand [7,8], These are advanced technology, safety, and social benefits were the three important issues [9]. The effectiveness of knowledge interventions on various aspects namely “trust in the government” [7, 10] NPP knowledge and NPP acceptance should be urgently and carefully created to provide strong hope for the future of NPP establishment and activities in Thailand in concurrent with the country economic strategic development plans.

5. Application in industry and agriculture [1,3]

Several applications of nuclear technology in industrial and agricultural have been carried out in Thailand. Nuclear gauge has been utilized in many industries including petrochemical production and refineries. TINT is also providing services on nuclear radiography to industrial and clients. Additionally, x-ray techniques have been utilized in many manufacturers for quality and process control. Gemstone color enhancement services at TINT also received considerable demand from clients.

As agriculture is the major income for the Thai society, nuclear applications has been applied to improve the quality of the products. For example, mutation breeding of rice has been carried out successfully. Sterile insect technique to eradicate fruit fly has been successfully launched as well. TINT and private sector also provide irradiation of food and fruits for local and export consumption. Agricultural stimulants are also produce mainly by radiation modification.

6. Nuclear medicine

Nuclear applications for medical purpose have been utilized in Thailand several years back both for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. I-131 has been given to patient with thyroid problems. To date, TINT produces several radioisotopes and labeled compounds for medical uses [11]. Of the total radioisotopes used, 87% is for teletherapy, 3% for quality control, 1.2% for radiotherapy, 0.1% for brachytherapy and 8.3% in gamma irradiator [12]. Common isotopes used are Co-60, Cs-137, I-131, I-124, Sr-90, Tc-99m, C-11, F-18, Ga-68 and Sm-153. Additionally, several nuclear facilities and equipment have been utilized for medical purposes. Several thousands of x-ray machine were used by hospitals and medical units large and small. Cyclotron, linear accelerator, Co-60 gamma knife are examples of facilities used by nuclear medicine experts to ensure safe use for effective treatment of patients.

7. Nuclear safety and security under OAP regulations

To ensure safe and peaceful use of nuclear technology and for the safety of the general public in Thailand, OAP has launched laws, regulations and ministerial announcements. The clients possessing nuclear facilities and/or radioactive materials including importer, exporter, utilizer, researchers must comply with these rules and regulations. They must submit request forms and report their present status to OAP regularly and be ready for inspection by relevant OAP officers. OAP also hold the nuclear emergency preparedness unit to cope with the nuclear incident and accident of the country. However, laws and regulations special for launch of nuclear power program are very much needed

8. National Nuclear Energy Policy in Thailand

Currently, Thailand has only one multi-purposes nuclear research reactor and no NPP. Yet we have realized the importance of nuclear power generation several years back.

Thailand Power Development Plan 2010 - 2030 (PDP 2010) was approved by the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC) and the Cabinet in March 2010. Based on the policy framework of the Ministry of Energy, the PDP 2010 was designated as a green PDP which highlighted not only on energy security and power demand fulfillment, but also on greenhouse gas emission reduction and promotions of electricity production through cogeneration system, energy efficiency improvement and renewable resources in accordance with the Ministry’s 15-year Renewable Energy Development Plan (2008 - 2022).

However, the significant increase of electricity demand coupled with the delay of Independent Power Producer (IPP) projects resulted in the risk of insecure level of reserve margin. Therefore, to solve this problem, the government decided to launch PDP 2010: Revision 1 which expedited the scheduled commercial operation dates (SCODs) of three combined cycle power projects implemented by EGAT and urged to increase the amount of power purchase from small power producers cogeneration system to 3,500 MW in total by the year 2019. The amendment of the power development plan was endorsed by NEPC and the Cabinet in November 2010.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant incident triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami have caused impacts on nuclear power development world-wide. In Thailand, the Ministry of Energy proposed to postpone the country’s first nuclear power project in the current power development plan by 3 more years in order to review nuclear safety standards and prepare legislative and regulatory frameworks. The revised power development plan or PDP 2010: Revision 2 which was executed as a short-term adjustment was approved by NEPC and the Cabinet on April 27 and May 3, 2011 sequentially. Under the newly-revised plan, the scheduled operation date of the first nuclear power project would be postponed from 2020 to 2023, and a gas-fired power project was selected as a replacement.

At the end of 2011, preparation was underway for the adjustment of the long-term power development plan. However, the implementation has been delayed until present. Nevertheless the recent Power Development Plan (PDP 2015) has included the electricity generation by nuclear power up to 5 % of total energy generation by the year 2036. [13]


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