Saturday, 11 April 2009

Nuclear energy - the way forward

By A.M.O, Kuala Lumpur.

This letter appeared in the New Straits Times on April 4, 2009. What do you think? You can read the full letter below or here.
AS recently as two years ago, we were looking at the possibility of going nuclear for our power generation, probably in view of the soaring prices of oil in the world market.

When the oil price goes up, gas and coal prices rise in tandem and vice versa.Ordinary Malaysians were also forced to fork out a lot more to fill their tanks, while at the same time, looking at the prospect of higher electricity tariffs and rising prices of goods. Suddenly, there was an unexpected slump in oil prices and, correspondingly, prices of gas and coal.

Today, talk about having to go nuclear has died down and things appear normal again. But let's not forget, fossil fuel is a depleting resource and things could change for the worse. I am deeply concerned the government seems to be easily losing its focus when, in fact, it should be giving serious consideration to exploring nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy which is cleaner, competitive, climate-friendly and sustainable for base-load electricity generation.

Although the plan, if pursued, would materialise in 15 or 20 years' time, it would need proper planning and early preparation right from now. Most importantly, the government must have the political will to make it happen.Since nuclear energy is little known to the masses, and often associated with negativity, public opposition is certainly something which cannot be avoided.

What needs to be done is to provide accurate and up-to-date information to educate the people on the matter, as they would oppose it because they are uninformed or misinformed about nuclear energy.We may have a surplus of electricity at the moment. But let's not forget that our population is growing and despite the economic downturn, the property sector has not shown any sign of slowing down.

We may have sufficient oil, gas and coal at the moment, but these are depleting resources and getting much more costly to extract. Depending on fossil fuel for our electricity supply could prove to be expensive and environmentally damaging in the long run. Putting up the infrastructure for renewable energy such as solar and wind power appears impossible at the moment.
Recently, it was reported that Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil company, will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind and solar energy because it is not economically viable.Hydropower is another source of electricity generation but building dams means inundating vast forest areas.

Transmitting power from the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam, which should be the largest in Southeast Asia and will produce 2,400 megawatts of electricity when completed, is still bogged down by uncertainties.The reason could be that the cost of laying the undersea cable to supply electricity to Peninsular Malaysia from Sarawak has soared beyond imagination.

It is also understood that Tenaga Nasional Bhd is finding it much more difficult to secure coal supplies from Indonesia. Detractors of nuclear energy would certainly refer to the Chernobyl disaster at every opportunity, but the incident in Ukraine more than 20 years ago was a result of flawed reactor design; moreover the plant was operated by inadequately trained personnel without proper regard for safety.

Today, the Russians have learned their lessons. An authoritative United Nations report in 2000 concluded that there is no scientific evidence of any significant radiation-related health effects to most people exposed.

This was confirmed in a very thorough 2005 to 2006 study. I think it is time to seriously look into the prospect of putting in place infrastructure to gear the country towards introducing nuclear power as the energy of the future, especially as other nations, including our neighbours Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, are examining nuclear power as a viable option in the long run.


  1. i will support if government go for nuclear power..

    hope that government will go for it..

    our oil and gas has been depleted..

  2. Bro,

    FYI, this is what I posted at MarinaM's blog today:

    "Malaysian Nuclear Energy said "Inevitably Malaysia has to go nuclear for power production in about 15 to 20 years."

    This is yet again another of those crappular statements like 'Thalidomide is fine' or 'Asbestos is 100% safe' until we get 3-headed still-born babies and young people die of cancer before they reach 21!

    There is nothing inevitable about going nuclear and we don't need 12 new dams in Sarawak when Bakun has excess capacity to serve mainland M'sia for the next 50 years (that's was Dr.M said the massive Bakun was being built for, wasn't it?).

    We seem to buy whatever the West proposes, even when disposal of nuclear waste and safety factors are still being debated there in the wake fo Sellafield, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters.

    When 'nuclear' goes wrong, it's not just the neighbouthood, it's the whole damn country, FOREVER AND A DAY!! And we will continue to buy all these rejected western technology like Incinerators and obsolete submarines and fighter jets at the risk of bankrupting our national coffers

    Nature has provided us with Sun, Wind and Water (wave) power which we deign to explore fully unlike say Germany & France.

    My gut feel is that with the oil crisis only in temporary abatement, it is nature and clean energy that will be our saviour, in the same way that solar and electri cars will play their part in taming Global temperature and pollution increases and resultant ozone layer depletion.

    We here spend nothing on R&D in M'sia but are so keen to import dubious Western technology without looking at alternative solutions.

    A simple point in case is that if Tenaga and all these privatised Water Cos were to implement measures to reduce commercial and public wastage and run regular campaigns to get people to cut down on unnecessar consumption (like leaving on kitchen lights and the aircon the whole day), this alone will release hundreds of millions of $ for R&D.

    But no, the powers that be will always find it easier to take the soft option, Spin doctor about it, hoodwink the public and invite obvilion to our door-step!

    April 11, 2009 2:57 PM

  3. Brother,

    I was told that Thailand is going to have its own plants in a few years. I was also told that if Thailand builds its own reactors, it is as good as Malaysia having its own. So we might as well go for it. I know that nuclear is cheaper, and greener. All we have to do is to ensure that the radition is well-trapped and the wastes are disposed well. Doing this will be easier that controlling the emission of Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the air caused by fossil fuel.

    So go for it Malaysia.

    GO Green.

  4. Ha, ha! That takes the Cake. Going nuclear is going Green? Anon 18.18, do you have an inkling of what GREEN really means? And we should have it because Thailand has it; and Iran which is now actively pursuing a nuclear bomb project?

    Show me the costing and then we'll see if nuclear is cheaper than coal or oil. Consumption in the West may be high due to large populations, but in M'sia we only have 26 million to contend with for the moment compared to 65 million in Thailand.

    And don't too readily accept Petronas' & Govt spin about coal and oil depletion. They have a clear agenda to pass the buck to the consumer!

    And don't be naive and assume that containing radiation and disposing the waste is as easy as pie. WE can't exactly wrap it up in banana leaves or black plastic bags and dump it in the rubbish can!

    The real issue with nuclear lies with radioactive materials having half lives running into millions of years. So far, they have been dumping the waste in mountains and the oceans and seas on a wing and a prayer and hoping some underseas storm or other natural disaster will not unleash a devastation on us.

    Going nuclear should be the absolute LAST option for Tenaga & M'sia!