Cambodia’s Nuclear Power Plant Plan Melting Away

Cambodia Construction News Vietnam

The ambitious plan to build a nuclear power plant in Cambodia with technical assistance from Russia announced in November during a visit by that country’s premier was unrealistic at this time, a senior official from state-run energy supplier Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) said yesterday.

“Cambodia is not ready for construction of nuclear power plant,” EDC director general Keo Rottanak said during a panel discussion at the InterContinenttal Hotel.

Mr. Rottanak noted that even Thailand, which consumes far more electricity than Cambodia, does not have a nuclear power plant. He said it was fine to study the feasibility of building one, but Cambodia lacks both the human resources to proceed with construction of a plant and the market to support one.

The government is aiming to attain electricity security by 2020, and for all villages nationwide to have access to electricity by 2030, according to Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Cambodia relies on hydropower to generate most of its electricity, with six hydropower dams in four provinces generating about 62 percent of electricity consumed, and most of the rest imported from Thailand and Vietnam, officials said at the discussion.

Mr. Rottanak said Cambodia is not ready to stop importing electricity. “Cambodia’s electricity situation doesn’t allow Cambodia to stop importing from neighboring countries,” he said, adding that it will take at least five to seven year to reach electricity security.

Imports of electricity from Thailand and Vietnam have decreased sharply, the official said. “If we look back to 2008…about 80 percent of electricity was imported from Thailand and Vietnam. But by 2015, only 15 percent was imported from Vietnam and about 5 percent from Thailand,” Mr. Rottanak said. The fall in imports was the result of new dams, coal-fired plants and power from biomass, he added.

Experts told the panel that Cambodia should focus on non-hydropower renewable energy, like solar, to fill the gap.

Mr. Rottanak said the government is already doing so but needs time to study proposals. It is also testing a 10 megawatt solar panel facility in Svay Rieng’s Bavet town and if the results are good it will expand such facilities, he added.

Kong Pharith, general director of IMB Cambodia, a Phnom Penh-based company that installs home solar panels, said investment in solar power is the best option because it is sustainable and environmentally friendly. Solar power could bring electricity to rural areas, he added.