Ismira Lutfia & Yuli Krisna
With renewed fears of nuclear energy amid the ongoing crisis in Japan, Indonesian experts have sought to assure the public that nuclear plants were still feasible options.
The fears are exacerbated by the knowledge that the country sits in one of the most volatile seismic areas on the planet, at the meeting point of several continental plates.
But not all parts of the country are quake-prone, experts said.
“We are luckier than Japan because there are areas that are relatively safe” for nuclear plants, said Irwan Meilano, an earthquake expert from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB).
Addressing a news conference on Monday, Irwan pointed to the northern part of Java, Bangka-Belitung, Banten and Borneo.
Ferhat Aziz, the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) spokesman, has also said “there is no need to worry since we have other areas [not prone to quakes] such as Kalimantan and the southern part of Sumatra.”
The proposed site for two nuclear plants in Bangka-Belitung province — in Muntok, West Bangka, and Permis, South Bangka — were not prone to earthquakes nor at risk of a tsunami, said Natio Lasman, chairman of the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten).
“Bapeten would definitely not recommend the establishment of a nuclear plant on the western part of Sumatra or the southern part of Java close to the border of tectonic plates,” he said, adding that the Bangka-Belitung area had a stable record of seismic and volcanic activity.
ITB nuclear expert also said Zaki Su’ud said building a reactor had to go through strict monitoring and surveillance by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
He also said Fukushima’s weakness was that the reactors did not use a passive safety system that could naturally reduce heat by using gravitational forces.
“I recommend that if we want to build a nuclear reactor in Indonesia, it should at the minimum be of the third or fourth generation, the fourth being 100 percent reliant on a passive safety system. Even if sabotaged, it would not explode,” Zaki said.
He also said the site chosen for the construction should meet at least 15 requirements, including that it is not prone to natural disasters.
He said the rapidly growing demand for electricity made the use of nuclear power plants urgent in Indonesia, but that the earliest the country could begin building one would be in 2018.
He said the government had only made plans to build four nuclear reactors, each requiring an outlay of up to Rp 20 trillion ($2.3 billion), by 2025. It is estimated the plants will produce about 4,000 megawatts of electricity, or a fourth of Java’s annual usage.