RSIS organised, in coordination with Energy Market Authority, a roundtable panel discussion at the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) with the theme “Is Southeast Asia Ready for Nuclear Power?” The RSIS Roundtable was held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on 29 October 2015. Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, RSIS Executive Deputy Chairman, delivered the welcome remarks.
The Roundtable featured diverse perspectives on whether Southeast Asia should or should not pursue nuclear power and facilitated constructive debate among experts on this issue. Roundtable panellists included Dr Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow at Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University and former Deputy Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Dr Taswanda Taryo, Deputy Chairman of National Nuclear Energy Agency of Indonesia; Dr Tran Chi Thanh, President of Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute; Mr Egor Simonov, Director of ROSATOM Asia; Dr Ronald McCoy, President of the Malaysians Physicians for Social Responsibility and Dr Andrew Wee, President of Singapore National Academy of Science and Provost’s Chair Professor of Physics, National University of Singapore. Assoc Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony, Head of the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, and Mr Kwa Chong Guan, RSIS Senior Fellow, chaired the two panel sessions of the RSIS Roundtable.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, RSIS Executive Deputy Chairman, highlighted the importance of regional cooperation through the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies (ASEANTOM) and the Nuclear Energy Cooperation Subsector Network (NEC-SSN), which can facilitate information-sharing and joint capacity-building activities among ASEAN members.
Panellists discussed the current status of nuclear energy programmes in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia. Vietnam is set to commission its first nuclear power plant by 2025 while Indonesia has long been preparing for nuclear power. However, the lack of nuclear engineers and shortcomings in their safety regulatory bodies pose serious challenges to safe nuclear power development in the two countries.
Meanwhile, one panellist argued that nuclear power companies have been enhancing the safety features of their nuclear reactors since the Fukushima accident. But the anti-nuclear NGO representative argued that the issue of nuclear waste is one major reason why the region should not use nuclear power and the growing energy demand can be met by renewables, energy efficiency and sustainable living.