The United States will help Thailand develop nuclear power through a new class of small reactors, part of a programme aimed at fighting climate change, Vice President Kamala Harris announced on a visit Saturday.
The White House said the assistance was part of its Net Zero World Initiative, a project launched at last year’s Glasgow climate summit in which the United States partners with the private sector and philanthropists to promote clean energy.
Thailand does not have nuclear power, with the public mood on the issue souring after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.
The White House said it would offer technical assistance to the Southeast Asian country to deploy the developing technology of small modular reactors, which are factory-built and portable. Such reactors are generally considered safer as they do not need human intervention to shut down in emergencies.
A White House statement said that US experts would work with Thailand on deploying the reactors, which will have the “highest standards of safety, security and nonproliferation” and boast a smaller land footprint than traditional nuclear plants.
US rivals China and Russia, as well as Argentina, are also developing small modular reactors, the prototypes of which are in the design phase.
The White House did not give a timeline but said it would support Thailand, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, in its goal of going carbon neutral by 2065.
Harris is visiting the US ally for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and discussed climate efforts in a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha.
Harris also spoke to Prayut about developments in adjacent Myanmar, where the military toppled the elected government in February 2021.
Harris “condemned the ongoing atrocities and human rights abuses by Burma’s regime,” a White House statement on the meeting said, using Myanmar’s former name.
“The vice president made clear that the United States stands with the people of Burma,” it said.
Myanmar’s junta on Thursday freed some 6,000 prisoners including foreigners. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Bangkok at the time, welcomed the move but said there was no evidence the regime was making broader improvements.
During the visit by Harris, the White House also announced an initiative with Thailand to boost the safety of fifth-generation internet and a project to build a “world-class” cancer treatment centre in eastern Chonburi province.