Saturday, May 19, 2007

Agency defends nuclear power plant development

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Nuclear Technology Supervisory Agency has defended the government's policy to develop nuclear technology for research, industry and energy on the basis that such technology has been proven safe.

Agency head Sukarman Aminjoyo said that Indonesia has operated three nuclear reactors for several years and no accidents have occurred.

"All forms of technology involve certain risks, but since the early development of our reactors we have surveyed all probabilities. We have even anticipated the possibility of risks associated with potential earthquakes," Sukarman told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He said that the safety and security of Indonesia's nuclear reactors had been proven during the earthquake in Yogyakarta last May. The nuclear reactor at the research center there was unscathed, showing that nuclear energy is safe even in the "ring of fire" if proper design technology is used.

"Regulations oblige us to choose power plant technology that has been proven safe, rather than new, untested technology," he said.

Sukarman also said that many Asian countries frequently affected by earthquakes such as Japan and Korea had long been developing their own nuclear power plants.

"Japan has built more than 50 power plants and South Korea has built more than 20 power plants. Japan is often hit by earthquakes but has avoided nuclear accidents. Why are we so worried about risks we are able to anticipate?" Sukarman asked.

In Indonesia, reactors located in Yogyakarta, Bandung and Serpong, Banten, are being used for research.

Last year President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced government plans to start building a nuclear power plant in 2010 which will commence operations in 2016. This power plant will be the first nuclear power plant to provide energy to the public and industrial sectors in the country.

Sukarman said that in many countries, nuclear power plants are owned and run by the government as strategic resources, but Indonesia's 2006 Law on Nuclear Reactors allows the private sector to apply for nuclear power plant licenses.

He said the agency, as the controlling body, accepts applications for licenses for the development of nuclear power plants. A national team for the development of reactors decides the criteria for ownership.

"We are responsible for assessing all applications before issuing various licenses, such as for location and construction," Sukarman said.

In an attempt to improve its services to the public, the agency marked its ninth anniversary by opening a one-stop service center for public and industry licensing.

Besides issuing licenses for nuclear installations, the agency also issues licenses for industry, research and health purposes.

The Director for Radiation and Radioactive Facility Licensing at the agency, Azhar, said the body has issued more than 400 industrial licenses for industries including the paper, steel, wood, cement and cigarette industries.

In the health sector, the agency has issued more than 3,000 licenses for hospitals and health clinics around the country including for cancer therapy at 20 hospitals and nuclear medicine at 12 hospitals.

The agency also issues licenses for non-reactor installation, such as for isotope industry installations and radioactive treatment installations.

Besides issuing licenses, the agency is also responsible for monitoring installations. The agency currently has a limited number of inspectors, but is prioritizing monitoring facilities with a greater potential risk, such as industries in which radioactive materials are used. (02)

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