Statement by Thing Siew Shuen in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 23rd October 2008: 

It is irresponsible for the BN government to opt for nuclear energy when we should ensure the regional security and invest more in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures

We are very concerned over the announcement made by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry that the BN government is considering nuclear energy as an alternative source of power for the country. The paper will be tabled at a cabinet meeting by the end of the year.

According to the news report, under the proposal, the plant to generate nuclear power would be built in a solid and rocky area in the peninsula. The implementation of the nuclear fuel facilities would take about 12 to 15 years. Once in operation, the nuclear plant could operate for 60 years after which it has to be decommissioned.

We urge the ministry to justify the claims that nuclear power is safe, environmentally friendly and more affordable in the long run, any Malaysian who wants a safe, environmentally friendly and affordable energy will not believe in such fallacies:

(1) It is not safe

Look at the catastrophic nuclear accident at Chernobyl on 26 April 1986, a reactor in the Ukrainian SSR exploded. The explosions sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and drifted over extensive parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Northern Europe, and eastern North America. Large areas in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people. Until today, the contaminated area remains unsafe and unlivable.

The government is responsible for the security concern of ASEAN countries. Are we going to bear the the substantial social/healthcare cost of the nuclear plant accident for our neighbouring countries?

(2) It is not environmental- friendly

The nuclear fuel cycle release CO2 during uranium mining, energy enhancement and plant construction. Uranium mining is one of the most CO2 intensive industrial operations. In 1995, UK Government concluded that nuclear power is one of the least cost-effective ways in which to cut CO2 emissions.

According to a statement by the international nuclear power industry to the Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) in Kyoto, "Climate change is a serious problem which needs to be tackled in a way which safeguards the future for generations to come. Tackling climate change through the development of nuclear power is both expensive and just swaps one serious problem for another. Nuclear power cannot be considered to be a clean source of electricity. "

(3) It is not affordable

First, uranium is finite. Second, Reactor decommissioning costs is also a major uncertainty. Third, the cost of radioactive waste management is high.

In the UK, the cost of dealing with the unwanted waste of the nuclear industry is officially estimated at about US$70 billion (RM 476 billion). In German, the government announced policy to phase-out the use of nuclear energy in 2000, now they are worried about how to shut down nuclear power plants safely. Above all the problems of shutting down a reactor is: How and where to dispose of the radioactive waste?

The government should be more responsible as all Malaysian are part of the global citizen in the world. Not only we should reject the proposal of nuclear plant from nuclear industry, we should also invest more in energy efficiency measures and utilize our renewable energy sources such as solar PV, solar concentrators, micro and pico hydro systems, bio-gas and bio-mass, wind and tide.

* Thing Siew Shuen, Environmental Officer to DAP Secretary-General