February 21, 2012

Indonesia Considering Nuclear Reactor

Anti-nuclear protest in Indonesia

From The Jakarta Post of February 1, 2008:

"RI [Republic of Indonesia] nuclear plan needs further study: Gus Dur"

"The debate continues on whether Indonesia should risk using nuclear energy, amid the search for urgently-needed alternative renewable and efficient energy sources to ease dependency on costly and depleting fossil fuels.

The government has said it is looking to have its first 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant up and running in 2017, but so far plans have only included the search for a suitable location, research and a feasibility study.

Former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid said Thursday there were other abundant natural resources which had not yet been maximized. He mentioned alternative energy resources including wind generators, biofuel and geothermal energy.

"We need to conduct more research and preparation, than ever before, if we are intending to build a nuclear power plant. Look at what happened in Chernobyl," he said after a seminar titled Iran's Nuclear Program: What Is It For, Can Indonesia Take A Lesson?.

A reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986, in the former Soviet Union, and was the worst nuclear plant accident in history as explosions and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area.

The government, having gone from being a net oil exporter to a net importer, has chosen nuclear as an alternative to diverse energy sources, expecting sufficient and cheap end-results.

Nuclear energy is regarded by some as environmentally friendly because it emits zero carbon dioxide, but its maintenance is extremely costly and is not recommended for nations planning to use it as a small percentage of their energy supply, or who are rich in other resources.

Locals and activists have protested over the location in the Muria Peninsula in Central Java, designated for the nuclear plant, where earthquakes are frequent.

National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan) chairman Hudi Hastowo said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had deemed the spot safe in terms of its seismic and volcanic activity.
Unlike Iran, Hudi said, Indonesia had no plans as yet to process enriched uranium, but suggested the creation of a collective enrichment center with neighboring countries.
"For instance, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have one together. That way, we wouldn't be suspected like what Iran is facing now," he said.

..."International law depends on who has power ... Indonesia has to make sure it can never be considered as an axis of evil or a country harboring terrorists," University of Indonesia professor Hikmahanto Juwana said. (amr) "

Indonesia's nuclear program publicly concentrates on plans to build reactors for peaceful purposes. The national legislative organ for nuclear energy, the Nuclear Energy Control Board (BAPETEN) was founded in 1998. Indonesia's national agency for nuclear energy is BATAN.

Decades ago small scale peaceful nuclear research commenced in Indonesia. Plans for an atomic program were mostly shelved in 1997 partially due to the discovery of the Natuna Gas Field, but have been revived since 2005.

Indonesia has stated that the program will be developed in accordance with the International Atomic Energy Agency. For this reason, Mohammed ElBaradei was invited to visit the country in December 2006.

Protests against plans for nuclear power have occurred in June 2007 near Central Java as well as an upsurge in mid 2007
For research purposes, nuclear reactors have already been built in Indonesia in:
- Yogyakarta, Central Java - the Kartini reactor.
- Serpong , West Java - the MPR RSG-GA Siwabessy reactor, and in
- Bandung, West Java - the Triga Mark II nuclear research reactor.

Various locations have been proposed for building nuclear reactors for generating electricity - such as:

- Muria, Central Java, and.
- Gorontalo, in the north of Sulawesi (Celebes).

Indonesia has at least two uranium mines, Remaja-Hitam and Rirang-Tanah Merah in the west of Kalimantan (Borneo). If these uranium resources appear to be insufficient, the country has the option of importing uranium from friendly nations.
In 2006 Indonesia signed treaties for nuclear cooperation with various countries, including South Korea, Russia, Australia and the United States. Australia has indicated that it does not have problems with supplying Indonesia with uranium for peaceful purposes, and there is an agreement with a Russian company to build a floating nuclear reactor in Gorontalo.
Indonesia has various reasons for wanting to build nuclear reactors:
- Domestic energy consumption in Indonesia is growing rapidly.
- Nuclear energy will reduce dependence on petroleum, a non-renewable resourse. Indonesia, an OPEC member and long-time net oil exporter became a net importer of oil at the beginning of 2005.

- If domestic energy consumption can be provided through nuclear energy, it may be possible to export more oil.

The nuclear plans of Indonesia have met with criticism from Greenpeace and other groups and individuals. In June 2007, nearly 4,000 protesters rallied in Indonesia's Central Java, calling on the Government to abandon plans to build a nuclear power plant on the outskirts of their city. Specific concerns included the dangers posed by nuclear waste, and the location of the country on the Pacific Ring of Fire, with much geological activity, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, that could pose a danger to nuclear reactors.


Given Indonesia is not a rich country I wonder whether there are additional reasons (such as the weapons option) for considering enormously expensive larger scale reactor construction?