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E&T reports from south east Asia.

Philippines reviews nuclear revival

The Philippines government is considering whether to revive the mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant, 98km from Manila.

Philippines National Power Corp (PNPC) and Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPC) are jointly carrying out a study to determine the viability of getting the plant in working condition. The study is expected to be completed in October with KEPC submitting its findings to the Presidential Task Force on Energy Contingency (PTFEC).

PTFEC, headed by Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, will make a decision next January. The study will cost the government US$2.2m.

Speaking to E&T in Manila Pio Benavidez, senior vice president of PNPC and vice chairman of the special group on nuclear energy, said it would cost $1bn to revive the plant.

"We need to carry out repairs, changing the wiring and cables, building transmission lines and fuelling the plant to get it operating," said Benavidez.

The plant was built at a cost of $2.4bn with a Westinghouse light water reactor. It is the only nuclear power plant in the Philippines and had a capacity to generate 630MW of electricity.

Construction started in March 1976 but was stopped in March 1979 as a precaution after one of the reactors at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in Pennsylvania in the US had a partial meltdown.

An independent safety audit on the Bataan plant found 4,000 defects. It revealed that the plant was being constructed near major earthquake fault lines and very close to the Pinatubo volcano. Pinatubo erupted on 15 June 1991 after being dormant for 450 years, killing 870 people.

Construction resumed in October 1980 and was completed in November 1985. Early the following year the newly-elected President, Corazon Aquino, issued a directive to PNPC not to commission the plant following protests from people living in the Bataan area.

Since then the plant has been maintained by the government at a huge cost.

Reyes said the decision to consider reviving the plant was taken after an eight-man team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had inspected the plant and the site.


PFI proposal for rail upgrade

A Malaysia-China joint venture wants to double-track 250km of railway line in Peninsular Malaysia between the southern town of Gemas and the city of Johor Baru. The proposals will be put to the Malaysian government in the next few weeks.

The organisations involved are the Malaysian firm of Global Rail Sdn Bhd and China Infraglobe Consortium (CIC), a state agency in Beijing.

According to CIC's Xian Xinfang, the paper will be submitted to Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is also the Minister of Finance, later this month (June).

Speaking by telephone from Beijing, Xian said the project - which is estimated to cost US$1.43bn - will be privately-funded, with loans arranged by the two partners.

Currently Malaysia's only double-track lines run between the cities of Ipoh and Seremban through Kuala Lumpur, and the Sentul-Kuala Lumpur-Port Klang link.

Bangkok airport link to open in August

The train service connecting Bangkok city with Suvarnabhumi Airport will be launched on 12 August, a delay of two years.

German firm Siemens Mobility and two Thai companies, B Grimm Group and Sino Thai Engineering and Construction (Stecon) were awarded the contract for the project, including infrastructure and trains.

Construction of the 28km line started in May 2006. Test trains have been running since January, when the overhead catenary was energised. System tests and system integration tests have been ongoing since then.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications has awarded the contract to operate the service to State Railway of Thailand (SRT).

SRT deputy governor Prasert Attanan attributed the delay to a hold-up in land acquisitions from farmers occupying state land.

Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok's second airport. Its inauguration in September 2006 was also two years late because of similar problems.

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