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.