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Malaysia government’s nuclear plan draws strong criticism
Malaysian environmentalists and opposition leaders on Wednesday slammed the government's plan to build a nuclear power plant, calling it a risky venture and saying the country has sufficient energy output to meet future needs, reported the Associated Press.
Energy Minister Peter Chin announced Tuesday the government has approved in principle a nuclear plant, which would start operating from 2021, as an efficient and cost-effective means to fuel economic growth.
Malaysia will join neighboring Thailand and Vietnam, which have unveiled plans to operate their first nuclear power plants by 2020, while Indonesia plans to build its own on Java island by 2015.
The opposition Democratic Action Party said there was no need for nuclear power because Malaysia has a 40 percent energy reserve margin, double the government's target of 20 percent reserves. Malaysia's power usage now stands at 14,000 megawatts, out of a total capacity of 23,000 megawatts.
In addition, it said, several large hydroelectric dams are being built on Borneo island to cater to future demands.
"Clearly Malaysia has more energy than it needs ... why then does Malaysia need a nuclear power plant?" the party's secretary-general, Lim Guan Eng, said in a statement.
He also expressed concerns for safety and the environment, citing the 1986 Chernobyl reactor explosion that sent a cloud of radiation over much of Europe and left some 2 million people ill.
Malaysian officials maintain the plan is crucial for the country's long-term energy security in view of a growing population and future economic expansion, but say they will conduct feasibility studies before deciding whether to proceed.
Malaysia uses coal and natural gas to generate most of its electricity supply, and the government has repeatedly warned the cost of relying on both commodities is expected to spiral in the decades ahead.
The Center for Environment, Technology and Development, a local think-tank, warned that nuclear power was capital intensive and risky because it generates radioactive waste that has to be discarded.
The center's chairman, Gurmit Singh, said there is a lot of energy wastage in the country because gasoline, diesel and electricity are subsidized. He urged the government to instead bolster energy efficiency and turn to other renewable sources like wind and solar power.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are more than 430 nuclear power plants operating in some 30 countries worldwide, accounting for about 15 percent of global electricity output.