Indonesia is pressing ahead with plans to construct nuclear power plants, Kyodo News reported on Thursday (16/11/06).
“A technology and economic study has been done and we have come to a conclusion that these nuclear power plants are very viable for Indonesia,” Research and Technology Minister Kusmayanto Kadiman said in an interview. “Nuclear energy is one of the cheapest now, especially after oil prices have soared. With rough calculations, the only source that can beat this is water.”
The minister said priority will be given to the construction of nuclear power plants in Ujung Lemahabang in Muria Peninsula on the northern coast of Central Java. Nearby Mt Muria is a volcano, but it has been dormant for 3,000 years.
“On this 600-hectare area, you can easily accommodate four nuclear power plants and if each has a capacity (of) between 1,000 and 1,500 MW, you can have a nuclear power plant area with a capacity of between 4,000 and 6,000 MW,” he said.
The other site envisioned is in Bangkalan regency in Madura, East Java. In 2001, a technical agreement was formed among 13 countries, including Indonesia, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and they jointly constructed a 200-MW nuclear technology facility to desalinate seawater in Madura.
Those two places, the minister said, were selected because of their closeness to the market and from “geological considerations”. They are far from the sources of potential natural disasters such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
“Java is the hungriest place for electricity and reports say that 60% of the energy consumption of Indonesia is on Java,” he added. Under the plan, Indonesia will invite companies to bid for the project in 2008 or 2009, followed by a construction start in 2009 to meet a target of operating its first nuclear power plant in 2016.
Companies from France, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US, as well as domestic energy company Medco Corp, have expressed interest in investing in the project, according to the minister.
The government, however, must overcome its biggest obstacle -- public acceptance. “Public acceptance is a crucial factor. We don't want that when we invite those foreign investors and they come with their technology, protest rallies take place every day,” Kadiman said. “We don't hesitate to talk to people,” he added, referring to the government's successful efforts to ensure people on Madura that by using nuclear technology, seawater could be converted into fresh water, salt and electricity for the island.
The IAEA, according to Kadiman, has also backed the plan after conducting a site study and will support Indonesia in the areas of capacity-building and human resources development.