Jakarta (ANTARA News) -- Several years ago, local people, non-governmental organizations, and environmentalists were opposed to a government plan to build a nuclear power plant (PLTN) at the foot of Mount Muria in the northeastern coast of Central Java.

This public opposition forced the government to look at other places, including Bangka Belitung.

Interestingly, support for the development of a PLTN has been increasing recently, with the country falling short of electricity supply.

According to the National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN), most Indonesians agreed to the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

"BATAN carried out a survey, the results of which showed that 70 percent of the people want to utilize the countrys nuclear energy potential for national development," the chief of the agency, Djarot Sulistio Wisnubroto, said in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, on Thursday.

The most recent support was voiced on Saturday by a number of youths of the Nuclear Youth Communities (Kommun).

"We support the governments plan to develop PLTNs soon," Chairman of the Kommun Said Mobbarak stated at a press conference on the occasion of a Nuclear Youth Summit (NYS) in Jakarta on Saturday.

Held for the first time in Yogyakarta in 2013, the NYS is a forum for nuclear science and technology enthusiasts. It is now being held in Jakarta for the second time from November 22 to 24.

The government has planned to build a PLTN in Bangka Belitung in Babel, but it is still unclear when its construction will commence.

"We will conduct popularization among youths on ways to utilize the nuclear power plant creatively," Mobbarak affirmed.

He explained that PLTNs were far superior to steamed-powered electricity plants (PLTU) as they were eco-friendly, cheap, and had abundant raw materials available.

Earlier, the Governor of Bangka Belitung, Rustam Efendi, had agreed to build a PLTN in his province.

Despite plans to build the countrys first nuclear power plant in Bangka Belitung, there have been no indications that the new government will go ahead with it.

A study by PT Surveyor Indonesia revealed that Bangka Barat and Belitung Selatan meet the criteria to serve as locations to establish PLTNs.

PT Surveyor Indonesia carried out the study in cooperation with AF Consult of Switzerland in Teluk Menggiris-Pantai Tanah Merah, the sub-district of Muntok, Bangka Barat district, and in Tanjung Barani, sub-district of Simpang Rimba, Bangka Selatan district.

Wisnubroto further noted that it takes at least five years to build a PLTN of small capacity with an investment of some Rp1.6 trillion.

Studies have been carried out for years to build two nuclear power plants in Babel with a combined capacity of 10,600 megawatts. The plants are expected to supply and meet 40 percent of the need for electricity in Sumatra, Java, and Bali.

"Earlier, they were expected to be operational by 2025 or 2030. Hopefully, they will meet 40 percent of the electricity needs in Sumatra, Java, and Bali," former governor of Bangka Belitung province, the late Ekon Maulana Ali, once said.

According to the previous plan, the government was supposed to build two units of nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 10,600 megawatts. One was meant to be built in West Bangka district with a capacity of 10,000 megawatts and the other, in Permis, South Bangka, with a capacity of 600 megawatts.

Besides the district of Babel, a number of other districts in the country also requested for the establishment of nuclear power plants to cope with the power crisis they face.

"Basuri Tjahaja Purnama, the head of Belitung Timur district, proposed that a mini PLTN be built in his region," Wisnubroto affirmed.

Basuri, the younger brother of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, wanted to build a small capacity PLTN to end the power supply deficit in his district, Wisnubroto explained.

The districts of Kalimantan and Batam also wanted to their own PLTNs, he noted, adding that the decision had to be made by the energy and mineral resources ministry.

"If asked, BATAN is ready to build a PLTN. It is up to the government," he stated.

The idea to develop nuclear energy has long been a controversial issue. The most serious step taken towards building a nuclear power plant in the country failed during the Suharto administration.

The countrys first nuclear power plant was to be established at the foot of Mount Muria in the northeastern coast of Central Java. However, the plan fell through due to strong opposition from locals and anti-nuclear societies.

The BATAN chief pointed out that only 30 percent of the Indonesian population was against the development of nuclear energy for fear of the risks it poses.

With overseas cases such as the one in Japan, many people fear the risks of nuclear leakage.

Data from the International Atomic Energy Agency shows that radiation from nuclear wastes can last for 24 thousand years.

Therefore, nuclear wastes require special handling for some 24 thousand years to prevent them from creating environmental problems.

The perils of a nuclear disaster are the main reasons behind peoples opposition.

The explosion of the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Russia, in 1986, and the leakage at the Mihama nuclear reactor in Japan in 2004 are still fresh in their minds.

Even ten years after the leakage in Chernobyl, thousands of people died of exposure to discharged radioactive material.


Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2014