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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
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 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 Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
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 Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
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 Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
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.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs