Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Going nuke 'only way' to prevent power crisis

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Developing a nuclear power plant to boost the nation's energy supply is the most feasible way of preventing a future energy crisis, experts say.

At a seminar on nuclear waste management held Tuesday, nuclear experts agreed a nuclear power plant is necessary because domestic oil reserves are dwindling and alternative energy sources had yet to be tested.

"When it comes to nuclear reactors, the public will always highlight the (1986) Chernobyl case, but they don't know that the safety technology has been improving," Hudi Hastowo, chairman of the National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN), told reporters on the sidelines of the seminar.

"Moreover, the quality of every nuclear facility, including nuclear power plants, is subject to the review of various national and international institutions."

Citing a March 28, 1979, mishap at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania, Hastowo said that although the technical aspects of the incident were on par with Chernobyl, plant workers and members of the nearby community went uninjured because the facility's security system was highly sophisticated.

The Middletown accident heralded sweeping changes to emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factor engineering, radiation protection and many other aspects of nuclear plant operation.

He said Indonesia has safely operated three nuclear research reactors, located in Yogyakarta, Bandung and Serpong, for several years without incident.

In 2006, following the formulation of the National Energy Policy 2003-2020 by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a plan to begin construction of a nuclear power plant in 2010.

Expected for completion by 2016, it will produce 1,000 Megawatts of electricity for Java, Bali and Madura. It will be the first nuclear power plant to provide energy to the public and industry.

Hastowo also said that alternative, safe energy sources such as wind, solar, microhydro and biofuel were not yet being developed in Indonesia because of the high generating and technology costs involved in their utilization.

"The electricity crisis we are now facing will not be eased by 2025 unless we start developing a nuclear power plant now," he said.

Emy Perdanahari, electricity program director at the energy ministry, said that by 2025 renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biofuel, in addition to nuclear, should account for 17 percent of national energy supply. Coal should account for 33 percent, gas for 30 percent and oil for 20 percent, she added.

Former state minister for research and technology, Muhammad A.S. Hikam, said the government must explicitly announce that Indonesia is certain to go nuclear and support this with regulations.

"The further acquisition and development of nuclear technology is inevitable for Indonesia. We used to be the leading country in Asia in the acquisition of nuclear technology. Many countries, such as Pakistan, Thailand, South Korea and even Japan, once learned from us, but now we have to learn from them," said Hikam, who is also a member of the Expert Commission on Nuclear Power.

Hikam recommended the government manage the current row over the nuclear plant wisely, adding that public policies tend to have more social aspects than technical aspects for consideration.(02)

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