New research reactor approval for Thailand

3 September 2002

THAILAND The construction of Thailand's long-delayed second nuclear research reactor is expected to begin by the end of this year, according to the country's atomic energy agency chief.

General Atomics (GA) and Thailand's Organisation of Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP) are awaiting the decision by regulators regarding the award of a construction permit for nuclear facilities at a new national research centre in Ongkharak. OAEP officials said that it is anticipated that the regulators will award the licence before the end of this year.

Kriengkorn Bejraputra, the secretary-general of the OAEP, has said that he expects the nuclear safety panel to approve the safety analysis review of the reactor plan. The panel, appointed to scrutinise six safety aspects of the project, including the construction site and reactor design, has nearly finished its work.

"The design details that were given by the GA (General Atomics) engineers coming to Thailand last month, turned out satisfactorily to the panellists," Bejraputra said.

The San Diego-based firm won a 3.3-billion-baht ($75 million) contract to build the 10MWt Triga reactor in 1997. The contract also included the supply of an isotope laboratory and a waste storage centre, due for completion three years after a construction permit is awarded.

The construction has been delayed because the review of the safety analysis report, prepared by the firm, ran into difficulties. Thia regulations call for the report to be reviewed by the vendor's nuclear safety regulatory agency. However, both the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory declined to perform the review on grounds that the reactor is located outside the United States. Eventually, the US Department of Energy (DoE) appointed the Argonne National Laboratory to do the job.

Its review, however, was not approved by a working group under the panel early last year, on grounds that it lacked essential information. Not until the DoE, to which both laboratories are affiliated, sent a letter endorsing the review last November did the panel relent and approve the review.

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