24 April 2014
The growing turn to nuclear energy by Asia for a more assured supply of sustainable energy must be weighed against issues of the safety of nuclear power plants which the 2011 accident at Fukushima highlights. The planning and operation of a nuclear power plant is more than a national issue, as responding to any nuclear plant accident will involve the region. Singapore needs to prepare to engage in the emerging regional discussion on nuclear energy.
Asia’s growing demand for energy to power its economic development is causing a turn to nuclear energy as an affordable supply of sustainable source of energy. Japan is preparing to reactivate its nuclear energy plants which were shut down following the March 2011 meltdown of its Fukushima Daiichi reactors after they were hit by the Great Earthquake and Tsunami. China has plans for a major expansion of nuclear power in its evolving national energy mix. India is considering developing a nuclear energy capability. A number of ASEAN countries have also declared an interest in the nuclear energy option.
The critical issue in any turn to nuclear energy as a more affordable and sustainable energy source than oil and other fossil fuels is the safety and security of nuclear plants. An accident at a fossil fuel fired plant can be localized, but not that of an accident at a nuclear power plant, as the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plants illustrates. The consequences of a nuclear power plant accident are region wide. The issues of the safety and security of any nuclear energy plant in ASEAN is therefore more than a national debate. It is a regional issue.
Singapore, if it is to participate in any regional discussion on nuclear energy, needs to build up its expertise on nuclear energy. The establishment of a Nuclear Safety Research and Education Programme is a step towards this end. It builds on earlier, but now forgotten, interest in nuclear energy in the 1960s in the Ministry of Science and Technology which sent one or two physicists in the old University of Singapore to study nuclear physics and energy.
… Kwa Chong Guan is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies where he currently coordinates the School’s work on bio security, cyber security and nuclear security.
RSIS / Online
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