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NEWS UPDATES 17 August 2010

Nuclear plants are safe, says Malaysia scientist

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Modern-day nuclear power plants (NPPs) are very safe and have a "fail-proof system", said University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) scientist Datuk Dr. Noramly Muslim.

Prof Noramly, a former Deputy Director General of UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stressed that a situationlike Chernobyl would not recur.

In the 1986 incident, fires and series of explosions destroyed the Soviet-era NPP in Chernobyl, Ukraine, where more than 300,000 had to be evacuated.

Prof Noramly, 69, found that Malaysians, like people elsewhere,have a "blind fear" that arose out of ignorance about anything to do with "nuclear".

These people are generally ill-informed and do not know much about nuclear energy, he said.

They are also not aware and do not know that science and technology had made great strides in nuclear technology and had already developed a "fail-proof system" for NPPs, he was quoted in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's news portal.

"People generally fear the unknown but now the situation has changed. So much is now known," he said, referring to Japan, a country that was devastated by two atomic bombs during the 2nd World War.

"If anybody should be petrified of the NPPs, it should be the Japanese. Instead, the country today has over 50 units of NPPs in 17 locations spread out from Hokkaido in the north to the southern-end of Kyushu."

In the case of South Korea, he said, they have over 60 units of NPPs today, located in four different parts of the country.

In Asia, Even China is now going full-steam to build more NPPs to power up their growth engines, while Italy, the last European country to hold out against nuclear energy, is now scrambling to build their own.

Prof Noramly said in some places, it was the local people who clamoured for the NPPs, because of the industries and economic benefits that the plant would bring.

He pointed out that Malaysia has a core group of scientists who are ever ready to set in motion the building of a nuclear power plant to generate electricity to meet the nation's energy needs.

In fact, this group had long been readied to launch, construct and operate the NPP once the order was given by the government, he said.

Whether or not the Malaysian government would decide on NPPs, there would be 200 or more new NPPs built around the world by 2030, when Malaysia's energy demand would increase by 1.5 times and when global Green House Gases (GHG) emission is targeted for a 50 per cent reduction.

It would be almost five times cheaper to produce a unit from NPP than from oil or almost four times cheaper than gas.

Though it is only one-third cheaper than coal, he pointed that a decision for the NPP is a decision for three generations since it has a life span of between 60 and 80 years.

A coal plant with all the green house gas emissions that leads to global warming has a life span of only 20 years.

As for the green renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, he said it was almost 14 times more expensive to produce a unit of energy from solar energy while it was more than three times more expensive from wind.

Even hydro-energy is three times more expensive than NPP, he said.

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