News / Asia

Despite Japan Crisis, Indonesia Pursues Nuclear Power

Greenpeace activists' banner hangs over PT Medco Energi Internasional headquarters in Jakarta (file photo)
Greenpeace activists' banner hangs over PT Medco Energi Internasional headquarters in Jakarta (file photo)
Brian Padden

Japan's ongoing efforts to avert the meltdown of two nuclear power plants following major earthquakes and a tsunami have raised renewed concerns about the safety of nuclear energy in other earthquake prone countries, especially Indonesia. Like Japan, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common in many parts of Indonesia. In 2010 a small tsunami hit the Mentawai islands on the western side of Sumatra.  And the 2004 tsunami that devastated the region from Thailand to Sri Lanka, killed over 160,000 in the northwest Aceh province of Sumatra.

Despite the risks and concerns posed by the nuclear crisis in Japan, Ferhat Aziz, spokesman for the Indonesian National Nuclear Energy Agency, says Indonesia still plans to build nuclear reactors to produce electricity.

"First of all, it is, indeed we are concerned with the event in Japan. Its a tragic one," Aziz said. "As far a Indonesia is concerned we have also to be more concerned about the needs of this country for energy in the near future."

Aziz says to ensure public safety Indonesia will build plants outside of earthquake zones and in accordance with the International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines. But Richard Tanter a nuclear safety and security researcher at the Nautilus Institute in Melbourne says, the proposed site for a nuclear power plant on the Muria peninsula on the north coast of central Java is a high risk location.

"Firstly that was on the edge of a volcano. Secondly there were seismic risks in that area," noted Tanter. "Thirdly planning for that Muria nuclear power plant has been based on Japanese earthquake guidelines of thirty years ago."

Aziz disputes these risks but says the government will likely give in to public pressure and change the proposed site.

"Muria is in Java Island," he explained. "It is actually one of the safest places on Java. It is quite far away from the fault line. It is far away from volcanos. But as for the moment we are kind of pending it now because of the opposition from the people there."

The government had set a goal of building a nuclear power plant by 2016. Finding a new site may make meeting that deadline unlikely.

The islands of Borneo and Kalimatan would be ideal sites from a safety perspective, Aziz says, because they lie outside the fault line known as the "Ring of Fire," where two shelves of the earth's crust meet. Along this juncture heat from the earth's core escapes causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But building nuclear plants on Borneo or Kalimatan would not solve the energy needs of Java, the country's most populous island. Aziz says they are now studying the feasibility of building a nuclear plant on Bangka island off the east coast of Sumatra and run underwater cables to carry the electricity to Java.

Given the risks and the costs, Tanter questions the need for nuclear power in Indonesia, a country already rich in natural gas and coal and has the potential for developing significant geothermal, solar and wind energy. But other countries in the region are also pursuing nuclear power. And Tanter says Indonesia like many countries sees the development of nuclear power as a sign of technological progress and national pride.

"When countries like Malaysia and the Philippines announce their now quite firm intentions to go ahead with nuclear power there is a feeling in some circles in the Indonesian government and in the parliament of a kind of nationalist kind, 'Look we are meant to be the leaders of ASEAN. We are the biggest. We should be the leading part. Why aren't we pursuing this technology as well?" asked Tanter.

In the wake of the disaster in Japan, some officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are urging their governments to re-evaluate the need for nuclear power.

But Aziz says developing nuclear power is not about pride but capacity. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, and Aziz says it will need all types of power generating plants to meet its growing energy needs. Indonesia already safely operates three nuclear research facilities and he says that public safety will continue to be a priority when building any nuclear power plants.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs