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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid