Russia to help Cambodia build capacity for nuclear power

YEKATERINBURG, Russia/PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Russia will help Cambodia work towards building a nuclear power plant under an agreement the two countries signed this week, said Sergei Kirienko, the head of state nuclear firm Rosatom.

Cambodia depends heavily on imported fuel and power. Electricity in the country is among the most expensive in Southeast Asia and a common source of complaint from investors.

“The Cambodian government is mulling, in future, a nuclear power station construction,” Kirienko told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the agreement.

Cambodian energy officials declined to comment on the deal on Thursday.

The agreement was signed during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Cambodia this week. His visit was the first to Cambodia by a senior Russian politician since 1986.

Under the terms of the agreement, Russia will provide expertise, research and training to Cambodia.

“Perhaps, it is better to begin with a research reactor and a research center in Cambodia,” Kirienko said, noting that Russia has concluded a similar agreement with Bolivia.

“All emerging economies are now facing a key issue: for a normal development they need a reliable, cheap and guaranteed source of energy,” Kirienko said.

Other agreements signed on the trip covered a range of issues such as monitoring Cambodia’s financial system and measures to combat money laundering.

Cambodia is seeking $3 billion in foreign investment to build six hydropower plants by 2018 as it seeks to keep up with rising domestic power demand.

Cambodia has already been studying nuclear power technology, in part prompted by similar moves among its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Reporting by Denis Dyomkin in YEKATERINBURG and Prak Chan Thul in PHNOM PENH; Editing by Simon Webb and Tom Hogue