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Timeline: Nuclear Power in South-East Asia

Updated On: Jul 19, 2012

1954 – Indonesia establishes the State Commission of Radioactivity and Atomic Energy and began to study the effects of radioactive fallout from U.S. thermonuclear weapons tests in the Pacific. The government subsequently established the Institute of Atomic Energy (Lembaga Tenaga Atom, LTA) to conduct nuclear research and to promote nuclear energy.

1958 – Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is created under Republic Act 2067, heralding the beginning of Philippine’s nuclear program. Vietnam orders a small research reactor, the General Atomics-built Triga-Mark II, one of the first nations under the Atoms for Peace program to do so.

Mid-1950s to early 1960s – The United States of America facilitates the aspirations of four Southeast Asian states (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and South Vietnam) to harness nuclear energy for electricity generation and uses in other areas such as medicine and agriculture. Under the Eisenhower administration, the Atoms for Peace Program aims to transfer equipment, including nuclear research reactors, as well as foster local capabilities through the overseas education of nuclear scientists and technicians.

1960 – A five-year bilateral agreement is signed between the US and Indonesia under Atoms of Peace Program. The US agrees to provide Indonesia with a research reactor, a US$350,000 grant and monetary assistance toward the establishment of an atomic research program.

1961 – The Office of Atoms of Peace is established in Thailand as a nuclear research center. In the Philippines, Congress approves the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission to conduct and promote research and development of materials in atomic energy production.

1963 – An Atoms for Peace supported research reactor comes into operation in the Philippines. The Dalat Nuclear Research Institute, which houses a small research reactor, is built in Vietnam with US assistance.

1964 – Reactor at the Bandung Institute of Technology in West Java, Indonesia becomes operational; Indonesia records its first nuclear reaction. China detonates its first atom bomb; Indonesia praises China via press, indicating President Sukarno’s enthusiasm toward nuclear power.

1965 – Construction begins on a research reactor at Gaja Mada research center in Yogyakarta, Indonesia with Soviet/Russian assistance.

July 1965 – President Sukarno publicly declares his support for Indonesian acquisition of nuclear weapons.

August 1965 – President Sukarno announces through Japanese journalists that Indonesia is preparing to explode its first atomic bomb.

October 1965 – Suharto-led coup takes place in Indonesia.

1966 – Thailand's first nuclear project is proposed by the state's Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

1967 – Suharto government formally agrees to international safeguards of
sensitive nuclear materials and equipment; Indonesia’s nuclear bomb
aspirations end.

1968 – The Philippine Atomic Regulatory and Liability Act is enacted. In July, the Philippine government enters an agreement with the US government on the possible construction of two nuclear power plants and a long-term supply of enriched uranium.

1972 – Malaysia’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA under the NPT enters into effect.

July 1973 – In response to the 1973 oil crisis, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos announces plans to build a 621-megawatt Westinghouse light water reactor nuclear power plant at Napot Point in Morong on the Bataan Peninsula.

1974 – Thai government approves the proposed project of 1966 to be situated in Bhai Bay, Chonburi province, East Thailand, with 350- to 500-megawatt capacity. However, the project is shelved after fluctuations in the world oil market led to a drop in costs of natural gas at that time.

1976 – Construction of Philippine’s Bataan nuclear power plant commences. The Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission is established under the Vietnam Ministry of Science & Technology.

1977 – Thailand’s Electricity Generating Authority (EGAT) reiterated its readiness to build nuclear energy plants. However, prevailing global and Thai public opposition to nuclear energy leads to its cancellation.

1979 – Construction of  the Philippines’ Bataan nuclear power plant is halted after the “Three Mile Island accident” in the US. A safety inquiry about the plant is convened that reveals over 4,000 defects, including its being built near major earthquake fault lines and close to the then dormant Pinatubo volcano.

January 1981 – The Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC) is established as a campaign center in opposition to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Lobbying and protests begin.

1983 – A joint BATAN-NIRA Indonesian-Italian feasibility study selects the Muria Peninsula as its preferred location for a nuclear power plant, but leaves the exact location open for later consideration.

1984 – The Philippines’ Bataan Power Plant is completed at a cost of US$2.3 billion.

1985 – Indonesia establishes a laboratory for uranium ore processing in Jakarta.

1986 – Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos is overthrown in the People Power Revolution. An international safety inspection confirms the 1979 assessment of the plant being vulnerable to natural disasters. Amidst strong opposition from Bataan residents and Philippine citizens, and following the Chernobyl disaster earlier in the year in April, the succeeding administration of President Corazon Aquino decides not to operate the Bataan plant.

1987 – Filipino President Corazon Aquino transforms the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission into the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), through Executive Order 128. It mandates the PNRI to "promote and regulate peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including its application in power generation, agriculture, medicine, and others".

1988 – The Philippine government files two cases against Westinghouse Corporation: first, a criminal case in the US Federal District Court in Newark, New Jersey, for bribery, and second, a civil case in the International Chamber of Commerce in Switzerland, to declare the contract with Westinghouse null and void due to bribery.

1989 – The Thai government approves the opening of a uranium processing facility to produce 1,000 kg of processed uranium per year. The enriched uranium can be used as fuel in the heavy water (CANDU type) reactor.

1990 – Indonesia completes a six year project with IAEA assistance to improve its radioactive waste management programme for the disposal of spent fuel from its research reactors. Indonesia currently operates in accordance with international norms.

1991 – Indonesia establishes uranium conversion capability at the Research Center for Nuclear Techniques at Bandung, located in Yogyakarta.

June 1991 - The volcano Mount Pinatubo erupts in the Philippines, the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century.

March 1992 – The Filipino government agrees to negotiate a US$100 million out-of-court settlement lopsidedly in favor of Westinghouse. Senate and the House of Representatives later reject the settlement bid.

1993 – Thailand’s Office for Atomic Energy for Peace (OAEP) establishes the Nuclear Center in Ongkarak in Nakhon Nayok province, near Bangkok. Covering roughly 126 acres, the project's budget is worth 4,500 million baht for a research reactor of 5 to 10 megawatts. A subcommittee is also set up to study safety in nuclear power plants.

1994 – Thailand’s government passes a resolution establishing the Committee to Study the Feasibility of Nuclear Energy over a six-year period with a budget of 750 million baht (US$30 million), and 50 million baht (US$2 million) for public relations.

1995 – Thai Minister for Science, Technology and Environment Yingphan Manasikarn begins promoting nuclear energy on behalf of the Electricity Generating Authority, despite opposition from development organizations. Government officials begin pushing for a nuclear energy policy through the National Energy Policy Office (NEPO) and the building of nuclear plants on the Gulf of Thailand. In Vietnam, a nuclear feasibility study in Vietnam recommends that nuclear power be introduced as an energy source around 2015.

1996 – The Thai government sets up a committee to study the feasibility of nuclear power, consisting of subcommittees on safety issues, economics, public relations and environmental impact. The government expects to undertake the study on four reactors, each with a 1000-megawatt capacity. Following a change of government later in the year, deputy to the Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej announces plans to build nuclear power plants immediately in the government’s energy policy.

Indonesia completes a comprehensive feasibility study it began in 1989, identifying Ujung Lemahabang in the Muria Peninsula as a site selected for its tectonic stability.

1997 – Thailand identifies four suitable sites nuclear power plants. Thai officials discuss the potential selling of Canadian nuclear technology to Thailand during the Prime Minister of Canada’s visit.

March 1997 – The South-east Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok) enters into force.

1998 – Indonesia establishes a national legislative organ for nuclear energy: Badan Pengawas Tenaga Nuklir (BAPETEN).

January 2002 – The military junta in Myanmar announces plans to build a nuclear research facility with Russia. The plan was later shelved due to a lack of funds for the project. Over the next six years, Russia continues to provide nuclear training and education to Myanmar citizens.

August 2003 – Indonesia signs a 10-year nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, including the construction of a research reactor and a power reactor.

June 2006 -  Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono calls for 5 percent of electricity to come from nuclear and other “new energy and renewable energy” sources by 2025. Officials say Indonesia can have a working plant within five years of starting construction.

May 2007 – Russia’s atomic agency, Rosatom, announces its deal to build a 10-megawatt light-water nuclear research reactor in Myanmar.

June 2007 – Thai Energy minister Dr. Piasavasti Amranand announces that EGAT would proceed with plans to build a 4,000-megawatt nuclear power plant, budgeting some US$53 million between 2008 and 2011 for preparatory work. During this month, some 4,000 demonstrators against the project rallied at the central Javanese site, in Indonesia, including a local chapter of Greenpeace.

The Philippines finishes paying off its USS$2.3 billion debt for the Marcos-era Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. However, it still spends nearly US$1 million annually to maintain the unused structure.

July 2007 – Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) sign a memorandum of understanding with Indonesia's PT Medco Energi Internasional to begin a feasibility study on building two 1000-megawatt OPR-1000 units from KHNP at the cost of US$ 3 billion. This was part of wider energy collaboration. Malaysian utility Tenaga announces plans to build Malaysia’s first nuclear power plant at US$3.1 million.

August 2007 – Energy ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in Singapore during the 13th ASEAN Summit to discuss nuclear power use and safety issues. Singapore proposes the establishment of the ASEAN Nuclear Energy Safety Sub-Sector Network (NES-SSN).

October 2007 – 100 clerics and scholars from the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, Nahdatul Ulama, descend on the chosen plant site and, after deliberations, issue a fatwa declaring the Muria site haram or forbidden.

November 2007 – Japanese and Indonesian governments sign a cooperation agreement for assistance to be provided in the preparation, planning, and promotion of Indonesia's nuclear power development and assistance for public relations activities. In Singapore, the Ministry of Trade and Industry deem nuclear power “not feasible” due to Singapore’s high population density.

January 2008 – The inaugural NES-SSN meeting is held in Singapore.

June 2008 – Heads of ASEAN Power Utilities/Authorities (HAPUA) recommend nuclear power as a possible alternative to meet increasing energy demand at the 24th HAPUA Council. Plans to form an ASEAN power grid are also set in place. Vietnam’s National Assembly passes legislation encouraging domestic and foreign research and investment in nuclear energy.

September 2008 – Cambodia's government says the kingdom may develop its first nuclear power plant as early as 2020. Secretary of State for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy Sat Samy says Cambodia's nuclear plans are in line with efforts by ASEAN to promote atomic energy among member states.

December 2008 – The Phlippine government enters into a Memorandum of Understanding with the government-owned Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO) to conduct a feasibility study on the condition of the mothballed Bataan power plant.

2009 – The IAEA World Energy Outlook identifies ASEAN as playing a key role in global energy markets, projecting that South-east Asia’s primary energy demand could increase at a pace “much faster than the average rate in the rest of the world.” 

February 2009 – Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN states that ASEAN nuclear energy talks were taking place on a ‘technical level’ and that most ASEAN countries were amenable to nuclear power as an alternative source of energy.

March 2009 – ASEAN officials and academics meet international nuclear energy experts in Singapore to discuss nuclear safety.

April 2009 - Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appears to back down on nuclear plans after thousands of protesters rally in Indonesia's Central Java, calling on the Government to abandon plans to build a nuclear power plant on the outskirts of their city. But the International Atomic Energy Agency supports Indonesia's plans to build nuclear plants, despite opposition from environmentalists.

In the Philippines, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) commits to support the Philippine government in establishing an independent nuclear energy regulatory body.

Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (VAEC) Director Vuong Huu Tan says that Vietnam is speeding up progress to appraise of the investment report, amid difficulties with human and financial resources. Vietnam state-run newspapers report that the government will spend VND2 trillion (US$117.6 million) on a nuclear science and technology training program.

In Thailand, four provinces (Chai Nat, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Chon Buri) areidentified as potential sites for a nuclear power plant, according to the EGAT.

India expresses interest in selling small nuclear reactors to Malaysia and other developing countries, if the governments are keen to use it to generate power.

November 2009 – Vietnam’s National Assembly gives the go-ahead to proposed nuclear construction plans.

January 2010 – Singapore’s Economic Strategies Committee recommends that nuclear power be studied for feasibility.

April 2010 -  Thailand expands its nuclear plans, now intending to build five nuclear power plants between 2023 and 2031, each with 1000-megawatts of capacity.

December 2010 – Malaysia Energy Minister Peter Chin announces intention to build two 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants by 2022, pending feasibility studies.

January 2011 – Malaysian government creates the Malaysian Nuclear Power Corporation to lead the process of planning and executing nuclear feasibility studies.

March 2011 – The magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake hits Japan, triggering destructive tsunami waves and several nuclear accidents in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex.

April 2011 – Thailand delays construction of their first nuclear plant, after the IAEA advises that Thailand is not ready for nuclear power. Construction was supposed to start in 2014, but this has been pushed back by three years. Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have not announced any changes to their nuclear schemes.

June 2011 - An IAEA report criticises Japan's handling of the crisis. The IAEA also draws up a post-Fukushima road map for nuclear safety, including peer reviews of national agencies and random IAEA inspections. But the new plans are only recommendations with no legal authority.



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