Upper House Rejects Nuclear Energy Plan

By Nyein Nyein 22 February 2013

Burma’s Upper House on Thursday rejected a proposal to develop a nuclear power plant in the country, as most parliamentarians argued that other means of energy generation, such as hydropower dams, should be developed instead.

A majority of 110 lawmakers voted against a proposal to develop atomic energy by 2020 in a way that would comply with the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), of which Burma is a member.

A group of 29 MPs supported the plan by Dr. Myint Kyi of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a former lecturer of Rangoon University’s Physics Department.

However, most other MPs believed the government should first generate energy from Burmese resources such as gas, coal and hydropower, as these are easier and safer to develop.

“Even the developed countries face many problems regarding nuclear power plants. Being an underdeveloped country we have not reached yet to that stage” of managing the risks of atomic energy, said Phone Myint Aung of the opposition New National Democracy Party. “There are plenty of places where we can generate electricity from hydropower instead,” he added.

“We think the nuclear power generation should not start yet,” agreed Aye Maung, an MP of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party. He said the high costs and risks associated with atomic energy made it an unattractive power source when compared to other forms of energy supply.

Deputy Minister of Electric Power Aung Than Oo told the Upper House that Burma has no plan to build a nuclear power plant but a preliminary study into the potential construction of a plant should be conducted, state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday.

The minister said Burma had access to renewable energy sources such hydropower, but might have to consider other forms of energy generation in the long term.

Burma’s previous military regime has been accused in the past of seeking nuclear weapons technology. The regime denied that and said that a project to develop a 10-megawatt nuclear power plant had been stalled.

In December, Burma’s commander-in-chief said that the military would only “conduct studies and experiments for peaceful purposes in accordance with international standards” for medical, scientific and energy use.

Burma’s government announced in November that it planned to implement the International Safeguards and Additional Protocol of the IAEA, which would allow the agency to inspect Burma’s facilities as part of its nuclear nonproliferation policy.

The US has since said that is assisting the Burmese government in its plan to let international observers inspect atomic activities.