The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Russia, Myanmar launch working body for nuclear tech cooperation

Russia and Myanmar this week established a working body for nuclear technology cooperation, according to officials.

Russia has said a nuclear power plant is not currently on the table for Myanmar. Photo: Aung Shin / The Myanmar TimesRussia has said a nuclear power plant is not currently on the table for Myanmar. Photo: Aung Shin / The Myanmar Times

Little is known about the bilateral taskforce, including who is involved or even how many members are included. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in June last year.

According to a Ministry of Education official, the working body is another step in developing nuclear technology with the help of Russia.

Russian government officials are now in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss further steps for the MoU, said U Khin Maung Latt, director general of the Department of Technology Promotion and Coordination (DTPC) under the Ministry of Education.

“We have a roadmap of further steps for the MoU … We have discussed and agreed for further cooperation,” he said.

Currently there is no plan to start a nuclear power plant (NPP), according to a representative from Russian state-owned Rosatom Corporation. Rosatom signed the MoU with the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2015 under the U Thein Sein administration.

“We are discussing cooperation of non-energy nuclear applications such as developing human resources, agriculture and health sectors with nuclear technology,” Egor Simonov, regional vice president for Southeast Asia of Rosatom, told the media on October 26 in Nay Pyi Taw.

“At the moment, we are not talking about NPP at all, but it is this government’s decision. We present what we have and we can do. It depends on your country,” he added.

“We are engaging with [the new] government officials although the change of administration cannot affect our MoU’s status,” said Mr Simonov. “But it is too early to say about progress of our cooperation.”

The MoU was the first official step for interaction between Russia and Myanmar in the arena of nuclear technology, including research, radioisotopes production, nuclear medicine, radio-immunotherapy, nuclear safety, radiation risk assessment, and training scientists and administrators, Rosatom said in a statement released last year.

Nikolay Drozdov, director of international business at Rosatom, told The Myanmar Times in Moscow in June, “We are planning to create a working body and are making a roadmap for the realisation of our project.”

Since 2007 Russia and Myanmar have had an inter-governmental agreement regarding nuclear technology and building a nuclear research centre, according to Rosatom.

Russia has trained more than 700 Myanmar students in nuclear and nuclear-related technologies in the past 10 years.

The Russian state firm is seeking potential investment opportunities in the Southeast Asian region, and is offering comprehensive nuclear technology and experience, said Rosatom officials. The company is building two nuclear power units in Vietnam, and has also won a tender for the preliminary design of a 10-megawatt reactor in Indonesia (see map).

Rosatom has two operating nuclear reactors in India and China, with two more in each country under construction. The Russian state-owned company has also won a project to construct a nuclear power plant in Bangladesh.

Myanmar has signed several protocols regarding nuclear technology, including an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Nuclear Association.

Earlier this month, the Department of Technology Promotion and Coordination announced a tender for a Nuclear Research Building slated for Hmawbi township, Yangon.

“The Hmawbi project [Nuclear Research Building] is not concerned with Rosatom. It is our own program for very basic research in purposes of developing nuclear technology for agriculture, livestock and managing natural resources,” said U Khin Maung Latt.

Myanmar signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996 and parliament approved becoming member of CTBT in August this year. An Atomic Energy Law was imposed in 1998 and the government is now drafting the Myanmar Nuclear Law.