An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official has considered Indonesia having large potentials to develop nuclear energy in the future.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The leaking of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the powerful earthquake in Japan last March 2011 has obviously caused many parties in Indonesia to do some rethinking about building a nuclear power plant.

Since the 1980s, Indonesia has in fact been making preparations to build a few nuclear power plants. The country has even formalized the plan in Law No. 17/2007 that mandates the use of nuclear energy in the country by 2015-2019, meaning that a nuclear power plant is to be built by 2019 at the latest.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official has considered Indonesia having large potentials to develop nuclear energy in the future.

"Indonesia has long experience in using nuclear energy. It also has many nuclear scientists and potentials to have good nuclear energy in the future," Kwaku Aning, deputy for technical cooperation to the IAEA director general, said at the National Atomic Energy Board (BATAN) headquarters in Jakarta, last April 2011.

Nuclear power plants have the capability to generate up to thousands of megawatts needed to improve the living standards of a country, according to Kwaku Aning who was in Indonesia to open the 33rd meeting of the Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) National Representatives in Bali on April 12-15, 2011. The meeting was attended by heads of nuclear energy agencies from 17 countries.

The use of nuclear energy could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, it also could entail high risks, he said. Therefore, he reminded that all efforts covering regulations, construction activities, operations must be tightly directed towards the principles of safety.

Through the RCA IAEA, Indonesia has so far received technical assistance including nuclear experts and instruments in various fields related to nuclear energy including the health, food, hydrology, industrial and environment sectors, BATAN Chairman Hudi Hutowo said in Jakarta last month.

He totally disagreed with statements that the Indonesian people were not able to operate nuclear power plants because they had bad characters, such as stupid, lazy or careless.

About when a nuclear plant would be built, he said BATAN did not have the authority to decide the plan, as it was only tasked with preparing nuclear technology and human resources. He suggested that the question to be posed to the National Energy Council (DEN).

On a separate occasion, President of "Women in Nuclear" (WiN) Indonesia Prof Dr Tri Murni Soedyartomo said that it is up to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono whether the country would apply nuclear energy or not.

Supporting the application of nuclear energy, Prof Tri Murni said nuclear development would bring Indonesia into progress and improve the people`s welfare, because it could be applied in the food, health, energy fields.

"So, if the President says `go`, nuclear application in the form of Nuclear Power Plant (PLTN) will be present in Indonesia, because the human resources are available adequately, and foreign investors are also ready," she said in a talk show in Surabaya, East Java Province, last April.

Few weeks later, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a clear statement that nuclear energy was not the country`s first option when it came to finding new sources of energy.

"In view of the catastrophe that struck Japan in its Fukushima power plant recently, all the parties concerned had been urged to conduct more research of the advantages and disadvantages of developing a nuclear power in their countries. For Indonesia, we prefer other energy resources, not nuclear energy," the president said after reading out several points from a meeting with other ASEAN leaders in the the 18th ASEAN Summit at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC), on May 8, 2011.

The president`s statement must be welcomed by a number of experts who have advised against building such facilities in Indonesia.

The cost of constructing such a nuclear power plant in Indonesia would be astronomical and not be economically viable, according to Dr Ing Negah Sudja, former secretary of the Commission to Prepare the Building of Nuclear Power Plants, at a seminar on the welfare and safety aspects of nuclear power plants organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta, Thursday (May 12).

He said although fueling a nuclear power plant would be less costly than other types of power generating facilities, "there will be other, very huge expenditures."

Among the other expenditures was the construction cost which would be 3 to 5 times the cost of a coal-fired thermal power plant because of the need for multi-layer safety precautions.

In addition, the nuclear plants owner had to pay enormous sums for insurance and the safe storage of nuclear waste materials, Negah said.

Prof Rinaldy Dalimi PhD, a member of the National Energy Council (DEN), said Indonesia actually did not need to build nuclear power plants, if the government could correct some basic weaknesses or mistakes in its energy management policies.

Explaining his view, Rinaldy said Indonesia had very great energy potentials : its crude oil reserves still stood at 86.9 billion barrels, its natural gas reserves at 384.7 TSCF, coal reserves at 104 billion tons, hydro-power reserves at 75.67 GW, geothermal reserves at 27 GW, and biomass reserves at 49.81 GW.

"Regretfully, 75 percent of our coal production and 50 percent of our natural gas output is exported. Although we also import crude oil, a large portion of our own crude production is also exported. This is related to the long-term contracts the government has signed with foreign contractors whereby it has lost control over crude oil and gas production and export," he said.

"So to make our own energy sources capable of meeting our own needs, the government should correct its wrong energy management policies rather than build nuclear power plants," Rinaldy said.

Speaking at the same seminar, Prof Dr Herliyani Suharto, the head of the International Network Program of the Indonesia Renewable Energy Community (METI), on the contrary encouraged the Indonesian government to build nuclear power plants, despite the Fukushima nuclear incident.

She disagreed with those saying that the Fukushima incident has demonstrated that a power plant has a high risk and therefore Indonesia must not build one.

"On the contrary the incident must become a challenge for us to find the safest place (for the plant)," she said.

The researcher of renewable energy from the Technology Assessment and Implementation Agency (BPPT) said Indonesia has a lot of areas which are free of earthquakes and tsunami which have been geologically proven for hundreds of years which are fit for the location of a nuclear power plant.

A member of the National Energy Council (DEN), Dr Herman Agustiawan, meanwhile expressed regret over the rejection of nuclear power plants by a number of people. He said they rejected but gave no solution to overcome energy demand in the future which would be very huge.

"Indonesia needs huge energy supply which should be met immediately, 5 to 15 years, or maximally 20 years. So what other solutions for it apart from a nuclear power plant which could be built once with a big capacity," he said.

He said it would be sorrowful to see Indonesia to have to burn coal as many 3.5 million tons a year for coal-fired power plants like the 20GW First and Second Phase Project and how serious the pollution that the people in Java would inhale from it.

Right now he said the Indonesian people could only enjoy 600 kWh of electricity per capital per year while Malaysia up to 3,000 kWh, Japan 8,000 kWh and the US 14,000 kWh.

"While we wish to build a mass rapid transport system our electricity capacity is not enough meanwhile new industries are still waiting for distribution. We have so far often experienced outages so what would the situation become if we wish to increase development," he said.

Indonesia should have started the development of nuclear power plants two years ago, according to Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Nuclear Community (HIMNI), Markus Wauran.

"Regrettably the government has not been consistent and kept changing its stance while it is actually clear that the national energy reserves cannot not last much longer," he said.(*)

Reporter: By Fardah
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2011