IAEA Supports Indonesia’s Nuclear Plans

JAKARTA ~ The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said it supports Indonesia’s plans to build nuclear power plants to address its growing energy needs, despite opposition from environmentalists.

“We are currently supporting Indonesia’s preparation for its planned nuclear power plant construction,” Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the global nuclear watchdog, said in a speech at the Ministry of Research and Technology during a brief trip to the capital.

“With its decision to embark on a nuclear power program, Indonesia is taking a step to expand its energy mix and energy availability.

“At the IAEA, we stand ready to assist you in finding the solutions that are best suited to your needs and priorities.”

Indonesia’s nuclear power plans were shelved in 1997 in the face of mounting public opposition and the discovery and exploitation of the large Natuna gas field. But the plans were floated again last year amid growing power shortages.

Indonesia had previously said it planned to build its first nuclear power plant, with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, on densely populated Java island by 2015. The government, however, has yet to secure investors.

The province of Gorontalo, in Sulawesi, is considering developing a floating nuclear power plant using Russian expertise.

Environmental group Greenpeace criticized ElBaradei’s support and said the plan posed a danger to quake-prone Indonesia and its neighbors.

“By endorsing nuclear energy in Indonesia, Mr ElBaradei is contributing to growing insecurity in the region,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia director Emmy Halfild said in a statement.

“None of the problems related with nuclear power have been resolved, such as disposing of radioactive waste and all the associated risks when placed in an area with a volatile geological structure like Indonesia. Instead it will only pose danger to the Indonesians and other countries,” she said.

Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s only member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but its oil output has fallen in recent years to about one million barrels per day amid flagging investment.

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