Monday, February 28, 2011

Malaysia going nuclear: the untold costs

The announcement last year that Malaysia may go nuclear by 2021 did not raise many eyebrows. It seems that public opposition to nuclear power (NP) is relatively small compared with opposition to the 100 storey Warisan Merdeka Tower and the genetically modified mosquito field trials. Perhaps most Malaysians agree with the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water that nuclear is the best option for cheap, reliable and low carbon power.

Nuclear energy has come under one of Pemandu’s NKEA (National Key Economic Areas) and one of its Economic Transformation Programs (ETP). A new company, Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation, has been formed to spearhead and lead the nuclear project from pre-project till commissioning in 11 to 12 years. It’s CEO, Dr. Mohd Zamzam bin Jaafar has said that “Nuclear energy is a reliable, high quality and cost effective supply of energy which is fundamental to attracting new investments as well as encouraging existing industries to expand into high value added activities”.

Below are excerpts from an article by Ken Yeong in StarBiz Feb 19, 2011 "Malaysia’s decision on nuclear power should come after due process”.

Economic costs:

• NP is not going to be cheap. Malaysia’s national average electricity cost is RM0.30/kWh. Analysts have estimated the projected NP cost to average RM0.50/kWh.

• A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has stated that the potential costs improvements by NP is only theoretical. Actual projects in Japan, South Korea and Finland have shown that costs have grown 25 to 90% higher. And these costs are trending upwards.

• Most nuclear power plant projects worldwide suffer significant delays and cost over-runs. Almost all projects require extensive government financial backing and subsidies. In the case of a cost blow-out, the Government (and ultimately the taxpayers) may need to bail out these projects at a cost of billions of ringgit to taxpayers.

• The ETP expects our private investors to fund 90% of the nuclear project is naïve.

• Malaysia’s reputation for megaprojects cost over runs, delays, corruption and leakages is a huge financial risk due the the country’s inexperience in NP.

Social costs:

• The Government estimates 2600 new jobs will be created by NP. NP jobs are highly skilled and will benefit only a very few in the field.

• A study by the University of California, Berkeley, revealed that energy efficient (EE) and renewable energy (RE) projects will yield 2.7 times more jobs than nuclear. This includes jobs in the solar photo-voltaic, solar thermal, wind and geothermal sectors. Investing in NP is not the best way to create new jobs.

• Nuclear is only a new way of doing the same old thing. It needs to maximize consumption to recoup its massive infrastructure, operations and maintenance costs. Hence, it is a stumbling block to progression to greener times.

Safety and security:

• Most Malaysians who object to NP fear our poor maintenance culture might cause a nuclear disaster.

• The fuel used in NP (uranium) is the same stuff as that used in nuclear bombs. As more NP plants are operated, more material for nuclear bombs become available,

• The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed grave concerns over the wholly inadequate safeguards against the nuclear black market. It is not difficult for uranium to fall into the wrong hands via the black market.

• Nuclear, whether fuel, bomb or power plant is the terrorists dream weapon. Attacks on NP are very real and Malaysia in choosing NP can be a target.

Environmental costs:

• The mining of uranium causes severe damage to land often inhabited by indigenous people.

• There is yet no long term solution to discarding nuclear fuel wastes. Proponents of NP points to Finland’s Onkalo geologic repository which was built at a cost of RM12.5 billion.

• Nuclear waste must be isolated for at least 100,000 years. This is an extremely distant future to monitor a repository.

Future projects:

• Malaysia’s choice of NP must be scrutinized in light of future prospects of the industry. Does NP have a future and continuity in Malaysia?

• Today, there is a global shortage of skilled NP workers which is threatening the safe operations of the plants.

• The scenario of 30% of global electricity supply from NP will exhaust current uranium reserves in less than 20 years.

• Proponents have pointed to the new generation Gen IV reactors which are expected to be more efficient. The reality is this is still in the theoretical stage and will not be in operation until at least 2045.

• The future of NP is fraught with uncertainties. Malaysia is about to invest billions in a dead end industry.


• EE and RE do not pose safety, waste and security woes that NP has.

• Some forms of RE like solar thermal could be as cheap as RM0.15/kWh, far lower than the RM0.30/kWh Malaysians now pay.

• Other innovations like smart grids, nanotechnology for solar PV, green power manufacturing could significantly add more jobs for Malaysians.

Malaysians have not been well informed or engaged by the Government on accepting nuclear power despite its immense costs and far reaching consequences. Nuclear power is being pursued without due process. There is more to nuclear power than just electricity needs.

(Ken Yeong is a Malaysian post-graduate student in Australia and a volunteer for an NGO called Beyond Zero Emissions.)

For the full article, please go to here.



There are so many very good points expressed in this article that would convinced anyone with a good sense, to realized and become aware that nuclear power is NOT the way to go for a country's (or for the matter, the world) future energy needs.

The nuclear industry is a dead-end industry only still kept alive by those in the corridors of power so that they could control the people. It should be uncovered for what it is - a 'weapon' of mass control.

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