IPP | Karen Mesina, Malaysia

Malaysia still immature for nuke power use

The country's plan is deemed "overly ambitious".

If the big “yes” is finally revealed for the construction of two nuclear plants in Malaysia, it will soon be joining the nuke bandwagon by 2030. This is despite apparent protests from activist groups and the absence of a final detailed timeframe for the nuclear plants’ actual construction.

The development of the two plants is estimated to cost RM23.1bil (S$7.68bil) and will be able to generate 1,000 MW. With these numbers in mind, will Malaysia be able to make this happen? Nuclear engineer and energy expert Akira Tokuhiro says that although this plan is impressive, it is overly ambitious. “Realistically, as nuclear energy requires a high-educated engineering workforce as well as a construction technology workforce adhering to high standards of quality and verified workmanship, this infrastructural challenge can easily take 15 years itself. Several IAEA INSAG reports describe the infrastructure needed by emerging nuclear nations,” he says.

The main challenge, he says, is infrastructure--both in terms of a skilled/educated engineering and technology workforce and larger, heavy industrial concerns that can meet the high standards in construction, operations, maintenance and management needed for nuclear power. “In order to realise their ambitious goals, Malaysia will need to set goals that they can meet over the next 10-15 years,” he adds.

However, Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMM) chairman, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, says that Malaysia is still not prepared for going nuke as public awareness is still at low levels. If it is done absolutely right, nuclear technology could help the environment he says. “But if even 1% or 2% is flawed, the repercussions would be severe.”

Zaini Abdul Wahab, an energy consultant, says that nuke power is not the be-all and end-all to Malaysia’s power problems. “We do have other options – renewable energy and energy efficiency,” he notes. “These would be faster, cheaper, safer and more inclusive.”

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