Photo taken from http://www.sonnenseite.com/
Trouble are brewing politically and seemed that there is a direction to project these troubles on unseen enemies of countries with vested interest. While the ex-foreign minister engages in strong rhetorics to the usual 'threats' of US and Singapore, he should be giving direct answers on using Internal Security act against BSA Tahir (Dewan Rakyat: Minister ducks the question) which is coincidentally within his jurisdiction.
So, why the sudden interest in nuclear technology since Najib mentioned it? Suddenly, the science minister scrambled to present a paper to outline the strategy. Do wonder what happened to the ex-science minister who wasted RM100 million on a space journey and tried to grope a lady in a cigar bar?
Anyway, here is what the government say and lets examine it.
Pro Nuclear arguments from Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof .
Statement 1 "been no accidents in nuclear power plants in the world in the last 20 years, including in earthquake-prone countries like Japan."
There are 56 nuclear power plants in Japan and generally with their work ethics and preciseness, this statement will be taken at face value. Contrast that with the Malaysian maintainence culture and one one will wonder if the benchmark is an overstretch. Surely, nuclear plants do have risks and is not as simple as this statement. Even with the best maintainence culture and a country that comes out with philosophies like TPM and poka yoke, accidents do happen.
In the last 20 years,
a) 2007 - Radiation leak, and into Sea of Japan due to earthquake.
b) 2004 - 4 death and 7 injured.
c) 1999 - 2 death and hundreds of public affected.
d) 1991 - leak in cooling water in Mihama.
From greenpeace on 'cover ups' from the Japanese government.
March 2007 - It was discovered that the Hokuriku utility did not inform the public or nuclear inspectors about a serious incident at Shika nuclear power plant. On July 18th, 1999, failure of control rods lead to an uncontrolled chain reaction.
April 2006 - A radioactive spill of 40 litres of liquid containing plutonium occurred in a brand new reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-Mura.
August 2004 - A pipe rupture in Mihama nuclear power plant killed five workers. TEPCO utility - the same one operation Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant - was forced to shut down its 17 reactors when it was discovered that if faked documents about safety inspections.
September 1999 - Workers at a fuel factory in Tokaimura failed to follow guidelines, leading to an uncontrolled chain reaction that lasted for three days. Three workers died due to high irradiation and local people had to be evacuated from the neighbourhood
Verdict : False statement that there are no nuclear plant accidents in the world in the last 20 years , even when we only examine Japan's record. With our poor maintaince culture and lower compliance culture, it will a huge risk to Malaysian public should issues like this are swept under a blanket of progress.
Statement 2: "economic viability is definitely attractive,"
From the article, cost of building of a 1,000 Megawatt
a) Electric nuclear plant, it can cost between US$1 billion and $2.5 billion.
b) Coal power plant costs up to US$1.5 billion
c) Gas-fired plant costs between US$500 milllion and US$1 billion."
It then listed down the rationale of mitigating against the increasing pricing of crude based fuels and the demand of eco friendly solutions to lessen carbon emission. All this is well and dandy. Do remember that when more countries use radioactive materials, the prices of these materials will increase. "The price of uranium was approximately $10.75 per pound in early 2003. By mid 2006, the price had risen to approximately $45.00 per pound. In early 2007 the price approached $100.00 per pound."( Argonne national Lab) The price have decreased in 2008 and like other commodities, is subjected to supply-demand and speculations.
The intent of this article is to demand that the Malaysian government be open to different solutions than just depending on a single tracked mind. The solutions may have been proposed convincingly or have been accepted by a powerful person, yet the job of the officers in the government is to be really sure of what the next steps are to be.
Try the solar power path instead.
The same 1000 Megawatt solar panel plant by Shell Showa costs just US$948 million to build. It is lower than any of the other plants, really brings down the carbon emission level, utilize our natural sunshine resource and does not need any fuel ( and hence lower the cost of operations) to get it to work. Would this solution be intensely studied by the panel in determining our way ahead in our energy need?
Samudi, the UKM radioactive expert summarized "Almost every month, there is a death in the coal mines, but why are people not so sensitive to that? The negative perception stems from the bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that's all." While it is true in some way, do remember that any accidents involving radioactive is long term, can be far reaching and potentially devastative. The fear of the rakyat ( people) is real and should not be dismissed with rhetorics. Our hope is that any solutions will be weighted and carefully analysed in its true value.