Saturday, May 19, 2007

Indonesia must embrace nuclear power: Minister

Tuesday, April 03, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As Greenpeace members picketed outside, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told an international energy workshop Monday that Indonesia would have to turn to nuclear power as fossil fuels dwindled.

"Developing alternative energy turns out to be a necessity rather than a choice. I am optimistic that other sources of new and renewable energy sources, including nuclear power, will play a more important role in our energy mix," the minister told participants of the workshop at the Sultan Hotel in Jakarta.

He said Indonesia had entered a second era of energy resurgence, in which the domination of fossil energy was gradually being reduced.

The minister said the country's total electricity demand was projected to reach 450.3 terawatt hours by 2026. In order to meet this demand, new power plants with a total capacity of 89,751 megawatts were needed.

Under the national energy policy, which aims to secure the domestic energy supply, by 2025 oil should make up less than 20 percent of total energy consumption in the country, with natural gas at 30 percent, coal more than 33 percent and new and renewable energy sources at 17 percent.

"Energy conversion in all sectors must be implemented soon, not only to reduce dependence upon oil fuels but also to alleviate poverty and to increase economic growth," said Purnomo.

He said Government Regulation No. 43/2006 and Law No. 17/2007 provided the legal basis for the development of a nuclear power plant by 2019, at the latest.

"The role of nuclear power plants is clearly to stabilize and secure the supply of electricity, conserve strategic fossil energy resources and protect the environment from harmful pollutants as a result of the massive use of fossil fuels," said Purnomo.

Outside the hotel, 12 Greenpeace Indonesia members held up banners proclaiming: "Nuclear Energy = Dangerous Energy".

"Nuclear energy is an inherently dangerous option for our country. Let's not forget that Indonesia is located along the main volcanic chain of the planet, known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, and at the joints of the main global tectonic plates, which makes it vulnerable to earthquakes.

"It is a moral and ethical obligation for the Indonesian government not to put the lives of millions of Indonesian citizens and future generations at risk in the name of technological advancement and the short-sighted interests of a handful of special interests," said Nur Hidayati of Greenpeace.

She added that besides the danger of accidents and the unresolved issue of nuclear waste storage, building a nuclear plant would involve enormous expenses.

"A single reactor would cost US$5 billion, making a major claim on scarce financial resources, thereby hindering clean, safe and far more economical renewable technologies. The result will be more problems and less energy," she said.

Hidayati claimed that hardly any of the current 435 commercial nuclear reactors in operation worldwide were built within the planned timeframes or budgets. She also said that competitive electricity prices for nuclear power could only be achieved by regulation and subsidies.

"We need real energy solutions that actually work, not a whole new set of imported nuclear problems. Indonesia can have a clean, sustainable and peaceful energy future built on renewable energies and energy efficiency. In the real energy markets, renewable energy has succeeded where nuclear power has failed to deliver new capacity to people who need energy," she said. (02)

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