Saturday, 23 May 2009

Global trends point to nuclear energy

This is another good letter which appeared in the New Straits Times. It only shows that more and more people are beginning to accept that nuclear is a good source of energy now and in the future.

POWER SOURCES: Global trends point to nuclear energy
By A.M.O. , Kuala Lumpur


I REFER to the letter from Dr A. Soorian of Seremban ("Safer to rely on renewable energy sources" -- NST, April 16) in response to my earlier call ("Nuclear energy is our best bet" -- NST, April 9) for Malaysia to consider nuclear energy as an alternative source for electricity generation. I agree with Dr Soorian on the need to weigh the pros and cons before embarking on any nuclear power programme in the country.

However, global trends indicate clearly that the popularity of the nuclear alternative is gaining strength. At the end of last year, 16 per cent of the world's energy demand was met by nuclear energy, a percentage contribution that has remained stable since 1986, implying that nuclear power generation has been increasing at the same rate as the total world electricity production for more than two-decades .

Further, nuclear energy is being developed rapidly. About 31 host countries have a total of 438 nuclear power plants, with a total installed capacity of 371 gigawatt electric (GWe).

Another 44 plants with a capacity of 38GWe are under construction in 13 countries, while many other countries are in various stages of evaluating prospective new plants or efforts to develop nuclear power programmes capable of meeting their energy needs.

New plants are being constructed progressively in China, India, Japan, Russia, Finland, France and many more countries.

Even our Asean neighbours, including Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, have declared officially their intention to develop nuclear power programmes.

We are sure that these countries have studied thoroughly over the years the benefits and drawbacks to their nation's progress and development in embarking on such a huge investment.

The study by the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1990 found no evidence of any increase in cancer mortality among people living in the vicinity of 62 major nuclear facilities. This result was expected since the target radiation level around nuclear power plants is very low (~0.05 miliSievert/year) as compared with typical radiation exposure experienced by everyone (~2.4 miliSievert/year world average).

(MiliSievert is the unit of radiation dose. Radiation exposure comes mostly from natural sources or background radiation (e.g. radioactivity in rocks and soil of the earth's crust; radon, a radioactive gas from the earth and present in the air; and cosmic radiation) and also from human activities (e.g. medical x-rays, coal burning and other industrial and research procedures).

This NCI study was the widest of its kind ever conducted and, in fact, it complemented similar studies elsewhere. This differs from the German scientist's study as quoted by Dr Soorian.

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