Sunday, 24 May 2009

Dr Mahathir and Nuclear Energy

Former Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has his own views on nuclear energy. Here's what he wrote on his blog:


1. With the price of oil going up higher and higher, many in this country are thinking about power generation. At one time the Malaysian Government had decided on a four fuel policy for the generation of electric power. We wanted power plants to use either fuel oil, gas, coal or hydro power. We had excluded the use of nuclear power.

2. Why did we reject nuclear power?

3. I am not a nuclear scientist but I believe I know enough of the dangers of using nuclear (fissionable) material.

4. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atom-bombed, the scientists who invented the bombs thought that the destructive effect would be only from the huge explosion due to fissionable material. So did their victims - the Japanese.

5. As a result the Japanese entered the destroyed cities to carry out rescue work and to clean up.

6. It was only later that they realised that the residual radiation would cause a variety of radiation sickness and diseases. The radiation remained harmful for a long period after explosion. Even today there are people who had entered the bombed area in those days who are dying of a variety of diseases, including cancer, contracted through exposure to radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

7. I think we all know about the Chernobyl disaster in Russia. Despite thousands of tons of concrete being poured into the site, the power plant is still emitting dangerous radiation.

8. Besides this we should know that radioactive material used as fuel for power generation remain radioactive and dangerous to health after the fuel has been exhausted. The waste cannot be disposed anywhere, not by burial in the ground nor dumping in the sea. It can be reprocessed by certain countries only. This requires the dangerous material to be transported in special lead containers and carried by special ships. Most ports do not allow such ships to be berthed at their facilities. Reprocessing means that the nuclear material again becomes active and harmful to health.

9. The fact is that we do not know enough about radioactive nuclear material. Once it is processed it remains a source of danger forever.

10. We have some experience dealing with radioactive material. In Perak we have a site where we had buried by-products of tin mining (amang) which had been processed to become radioactive and which was used to colour television. We had poured tons of cement on the buried material. More than one square mile of the burial site is barred to humans. The site is still radioactive and dangerous.

11. If we have a nuclear plant, besides not being able to get rid of nuclear waste, we may have accidents which can endanger people living even far away because of the material being carried by water (ground water) and wind.

12. I think the authorities should rethink the idea of nuclear power plants. Scientists do not know enough about dealing with nuclear waste. They do not know enough about nuclear accidents and how to deal with them.

13. Until we do, it is far better if Malaysia avoids using nuclear power for electrical generation.

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