US to help Thailand harness nuclear energy

Bangkok: Visiting Vice President Kamala Harris said on Saturday that the United States would help Thailand develop nuclear power through a new class of small reactors as part of a program aimed at fighting climate change.

The White House said the aid is part of its Net Zero World Initiative, a plan launched at last year’s Glasgow climate summit in which the United States partners with the private sector and philanthropies to promote clean energy.

Thailand does not have nuclear power, public sentiment on the issue has soured since the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The White House said it would offer technical assistance to the Southeast Asian country to deploy developing technology for small modular reactors, which are factory-built and portable. Such reactors are generally considered safe because they do not require human intervention to shut down in emergencies.

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A White House statement said US experts will work with Thailand to deploy the reactors, which will have the “highest standards of safety, security and non-proliferation” and have a smaller land footprint than conventional nuclear plants.

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US rivals China and Russia, as well as Argentina, are also developing small modular reactors, prototypes of which are in the design stage.

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The White House did not give a timeline but said it would support Thailand, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, in its goal of carbon neutrality by 2065.

Harris is visiting the US ally for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and has discussed climate efforts in a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

Harris spoke to Prayuth about developments in neighboring Myanmar, where the military overthrew an elected government in February 2021.

Harris “condemned the ongoing atrocities and human rights abuses by the Burmese regime,” a White House statement said of the meeting, using Myanmar’s former name.

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“The Vice President has made it clear that the United States stands with the people of Burma,” it said.

Myanmar’s junta on Thursday released nearly 6,000 prisoners, including foreigners. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Bangkok at the time, welcomed the move but said there was no evidence the administration was making broad reforms.

During Harris’ visit, the White House announced an initiative with Thailand to improve the security of fifth-generation Internet and plans to build a “world-class” cancer treatment center in eastern Chonburi province.

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