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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        23  March 2011

Malaysia may require nuclear power

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The regulator of Malaysia's energy sector says it will be ideal if Malaysia does not have to resort to nuclear power to meet the growing energy demand but, given the options currently available, it may be a necessity.

"The right thing is not to do it (nuclear power) at all, but we have no choice. We still need to find ways to meet demand. I don't think society is willing to accept any brownouts or electricity disruptions," Energy Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali said.

Tajuddin said the country could stave off having to harness nuclear energy for as long as it possibly could by examining other solutions, including tapping the hydroelectric potential from east Malaysia. "For the time being, we can perhaps buy time and not rush into nuclear ... the right thing is to have options available that push the necessity to have nuclear further and further away and, (hopefully) by that time, there will be other technologies and solutions to address the current concerns."

On whether nuclear energy was more an option than a necessity, Tajuddin replied: "At the moment, based on reality, it bears more towards that necessity. But at what cost? Is society willing to accept that cost or risk?

The severity or consequences of nuclear accidents are far reaching compared with conventional accidents and they are not only large but also last longer. It's a judgement call we have to make."

He pointed out that it was important for the government as well as the regulator to balance all these factors in assessing how best to address the future energy needs of the country, which he said, was expected to rise by some 1,000MW a year.

While hydroelectric potential in the peninsular may not be adequate to meet this need, he said the Bakun dam in Sarawak still remained an option.

"We (Peninsular Malaysia) have utilised almost everything (hydro power) so Bakun becomes real ... it is still available. Tapping energy from the Bakun dam was the initial plan until recently," he said.

"Also, there's 20,000MW of hydro potential in Sarawak but, even for that, there are concerns among some people over the impact on the environment."

It has been announced that the Government is studying a plan to set up its first 1,000MW nuclear power plant in 2021 and, by 2030, it expects some 10 percent-12 percent of the country's electricity supply to be nuclear powered.

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