Nuclear Thailand fears reinforced

Thai denial about past reality was cited in a story we posted named “Say it isn’t so”. There also seems to be a denial about the future and likely man made disasters caused by the laid back ‘don’t worry about it’ nature of Thais. All you need do is look at Thailand’s biggest industrial estate ‘Map Ta Phut’ in Rayong, and you can very quickly connect the dots why fears of Thailand building nuclear power plants is completely and totally justified.

When you work with dangerous things, you need to be alert and at the top of your game. It does not matter if you are working in a lab with Anthrax or driving a forklift with hazardous materials on the forks. Being laid back gets people killed.

So point in note, without looking to deep into the Map Ta Phut issue the first thing that catches you attention is it was shut down by the court. To the casual observer that spells problems without even knowing what Map Ta Phut is. Courts do not pull the plug like that and put thousands of Thais out of work without reason.

Second is reading the story below, it has a strikingly uncomfortable resemblance to the events surrounding the December 26, 2004 tsunami where no alert was issued leading to thousands of deaths in Thailand. In Bangkok an empty subway train was accidentally set loose atop a grade and crashed into a loaded train at a station. This and other less media covered events are all tied to getting a little too ‘Don’t worry about it’ when being on the top of your game is what is needed.

Considering that the chemical leak cited below had a fairly small radius of harm, it is just as harmful as things with a bigger radius like a nuclear plant going critical. Saying we have fixed the problem tends to be after the fact. Couple that with Thais usually not thinking things out to conclusion, and a series of unstoppable events could be set into motion leading to a major nuclear disaster before the Thais even figured out what was going on. The same was true with things that lead to the Map Ta Phut being closed by the courts. Simply put, Thai habits and dangerous things do not mix.

Quoting The Nation;

Anand slams Map Ta Phut for ineptness

Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, who heads a panel tasked with resolving problems involving the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, yesterday slammed the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) over its failure to issue a warning message to the local people immediately after a leak of a hazardous chemical substance.

The delayed warning has caused 17 villagers to be sent to hospital immediately after they inhaled butene 1, which is a hazardous substance and which spread out to the TaGuan and Aoa Pradu villages. The substance was leaked from a cargo ship parked at the Map Ta Phut port. The villagers inhaling the substance were dazed, vomiting, and felt nauseating.

This IEAT’s failure was one of several complaints related to environmental problems that Anand has taken the IEAT’s executives to task when they met on Sunday at Map Ta Phut industrial estate office.

“Each factories has reported in their document that they could resolve pollution in Map Ta Phut  Industrial Estate but in practice, the pollution control measure was not good enough and ineffective. This would lower the IEAT’s administrative image into the bottom,” he said.

The Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate is facing a legal hurdle after the Supreme Administrative Court last week allowed only 11 industrial projects to proceed with their investment and construction programme. At the same time, the Court insisted on keeping other 65 projects on hold awaiting progress on their further commitments to fulfil the health and environmental standards. This legal problem has stalled a massive investment of Bt400 billion at the Map Ta Phut.

IEAT’s deputy director Veerapong Chaiperm told Anand that the IEAT was informed at 1 pm on December 5 that the butene1 leaked out from the safety valve of the cargo ship named “GLOBAL HIME”. The incident took place while workers were loading cargo from the Map Ta Phut Tank Terminal port. Then the operator immediately issued an order to stop the cargo loading in a bid to repair the leaked point.

Two and a half hours later, the port’s operator ordered the cargo ship to move away from the coast by 10 kilometers. Afterward, the Map Ta Phut Terminal Tank’s public relations team went to visit villagers who live nearby the port and found that 17 people had fallen ill on December 5 and other 20 people were also sent to hospital on December 6.  About 5 of them were admitted to the local hospital.

The IEAT will take all responsibility to the cost of treatment and follow their health conditions after they are discharged from hospital.

The situation now turns to normal and the company is now investigating the leakage of butene1 and suspended the cargo loading.

“This was an emergency accident but the official responded too slow,” Anand said. “This would bring the image of IEAT down in the eye of villager. I really was worried about this and at the end it would be burden for the government.”

Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sapavasu said he was informed from the Rayong governor at 7 pm on December 5 as the IEAT had to produce official document before report to the high level officials.

” IEAT must have a standard manual to response the emergency accident and control the situation immediately even the chemical substances that leaked into the air was not dangerous,” he said.

Anand also blamed to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry for the delay to study the water quality and carrying capacity for the chemical substances in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate and nearby areas.

“I was surprised when the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry’s permanent secretary told me that the ministry is now studying the carrying capacity of Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate  and the contamination of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions in underground water even this area has been established many years,” he said.

He also added that some measures to handle with the environmental problem just recently  prepare to set up and will be not in time to resolve problems.

He said  some manufacturers personally informed him about the negative image of IEAT’s administration. Meanwhile, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry also informed him that it was interrupted by political influence.

To resolve environmental problems in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, Veerapong said IEAT has joint with Department of Pollution Control to monitor and eliminate the VOC emission after IEAT found the leakage of VOC substances more than 600 points in 2008. Now this problem is under control.

He also added that IEAT is now collecting meteorological datas in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate area to estimate its carrying capacity and expected to release the result next month. Then IEAT will submit the report to National Environmental Board.

IEAT in 2007 also had hired Thammasat University study the relation between VOC substances and health problems of villagers who live nearby the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate area.

He added the emission level of Sulfur dioxide and Nitrogen dioxide has decreased during the past few years as manufacturers in the Map Ta Phut has collaborated with the IEAT to comply the five year plan to reduce and eliminate emission.


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