Indonesia ‘Most Ready’ for Nuclear Power Plant Among Asean Nations
Despite concerns raised by the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, the government is standing its ground on plans to build a nuclear power plant in Indonesia.
Sri Setiawati, a deputy to the Minister for Research and Technology, said on Tuesday that developing nuclear energy capabilities was necessary to overcome the electricity shortage that has plagued the nation for years.
She said that while the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan should serve as a warning for Indonesia of the dangers of nuclear power, the country was still ready to push ahead.
“Of the 10 Asean member countries, Indonesia is [one of] the most ready to build a nuclear power plant,” Sri said.
She added that Malaysia was a step ahead of Indonesia in this regard as it planned to start building a similar plant next year.
Sri said Indonesia’s readiness to build a nuclear power plant was shown in a review by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which she said highlighted the country’s “adequate” nuclear expertise, workers, materials and technology.
However, critics have long argued that Indonesia is too geologically unstable to safely host a nuclear plant.
Straddling the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” Indonesia is one of the most earthquake-prone countries on the planet.
Yet the government insists fears of instability are overblown and that the country has competent scientists ready to set up and operate a plant.
“Let me emphasize here that Indonesian human resources will be ready by the time nuclear power plants are constructed in the country,” As Natio Lasman, head of the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten), said on Tuesday.
He added the expertise of Indonesia’s nuclear scientists had already been acknowledged by the IAEA. There are now seven Indonesian experts working as supervisors with the world nuclear agency.
Lasman blamed public fears about nuclear energy on misinformation about how nuclear power plants are actually run.
He said it was important to introduce nuclear power generation into the national energy mix to wean the country off highly polluting and increasingly expensive fossil fuels such as coal and diesel.
The most important consideration in building a nuclear power plant in the country, he said, was to find the most appropriate site, equipped with highly developed infrastructure and located far away from earthquake- and tsunami- prone areas.
Luluk Sumiarso, director general of renewable energy at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, said that while nuclear energy remained a feasible option for the government, it would only be explored once the country’s renewable energy sources had been optimized.
He said Indonesia holds huge energy potential from geothermal sources, hydroelectricity and biofuels.
“However, just because nuclear energy is our last option doesn’t mean that we’re not prepared for it,” Luluk said.
“We’ll keep developing it while we maximize the use of other new and renewable energy sources.”
He added that while the technical aspect of the issue was largely settled, supporting legislation was still needed before a nuclear power plant could be built in the country.
Luluk said the government was revising rules for the proportion of renewable power in the national energy mix. Previously, the government targeted 17 percent of all electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025, but has since increased the figure to 25 percent.