Going Nuclear: Green Light for Nation’s First Atomic Power Plant

muria.jpgUp to Four Nuclear Stations Proposed by 2025

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times
With staff reporter Rian Dewanto

JAKARTA/DENPASAR ~ President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will issue a decree later this year establishing a planning team what will work out the technicalities of constructing the country’s first nuclear power plant, The Bali Times has learned.

The plant is to be built in the Muria Peninsula of Jepara Regency in Central Java, an area known to be less seismically active than other parts of the quake-prone province, National Atomic Energy Board spokesman Ferhat Aziz told The Times.

It is one of four nuclear-powered generating stations that are proposed to be constructed in Indonesia by 2025, providing 4 percent of energy needs on the Java-Madura-Bali grid – more economically and environmentally friendly than existing, fossil fuel-based plants – Aziz said.

Producing 1 gigawatt of electricity, the PLTN Muria station is projected to cost Rp1.5 trillion (US$166 million), to be funded from private investment, he said, adding that a second reactor of similar capacity could be added to the site.

Indonesia’s current power output is 29 gigawatts, from mostly coal-fired stations around the country that emit large amounts of environmentally unfriendly carbon dioxide.

“We expect to start operating the plant by 2016 to provide enough electricity to meet the country’s demands,” Aziz said.

“Hopefully by the end of this year, the (planning) team will have finished making their recommendations. After that the project can be tendered to investors, so that the development can be started by 2010,” he said.

A decade ago, the central government previously mooted the idea of nuclear power to meet the country’s soaring power needs, but initial plans were shelved with the onslaught of the Asian financial crisis that struck the region and crippled Indonesia’s economy.

There had been no international condemnation of such a plan at the time, however some analysts voiced concern over the locating of a nuclear power station in Java, where last May a massive 6.2-magnitude quake flattened wide areas of Yogyakarta and its surroundings, killing almost 5,800 people.

In Japan last week, a magnitude 6.2 quake caused leakage of radiation at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant northwest of Tokyo, the government confirmed.

Aziz dismissed such concerns here, however, saying a detailed study had been carried out on the Muria Peninsula, as well as 14 other proposed locations.

“Prior to the decision, assessments of the safety of each  place in terms of its seismic events were conducted, resulting in the conclusion that Muria Peninsula has the least amount of earthquakes,” he said.

Officials from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Research and Technology Ministry, National Atomic Energy Board and state power company PLN are currently working on preparations for the plant, according to Aziz.

At a meeting with officials at the National Atomic Energy Board in July, President Yudhoyono voiced his support for nuclear energy as a means of solving Indonesia’s power crunch.

“If we always use conventional methods, only using fossil (fuels), we will run into problems” in the future, he said.

“For example, Java is already in an (energy alert). I think to change all that, it’s a matter of a new lifestyle. If the Indonesian people keep on using energy inefficiently, that will become a problem in the future. The second thing is policy – policies that ensure energy savings.”

The president said Indonesia would solely use nuclear energy for peaceful reasons, and to improve the welfare of the country’s circa-200-million people.

“The nuclear development that we have chosen is for peaceful and humanitarian purposes, and for improving people’s welfare,” he said.

Meanwhile, ass for expertise in operating a nuclear power plant, and ensuring safety, Indonesia had been in talks with the Australian government, Aziz said.

“We’ve recently had discussions with representatives from the Australian government about our readiness in having a nuclear power plant.

“We realize there are some international concerns about our ability to operate such technology, although we are confident about our human resources, considering we currently run several nuclear reactors independent of foreign experts. Therefore, either local or foreign companies are welcome to invest in the power plant development.”

The board has three nuclear reactors in Java that it says are used for research and medical purposes – in the West Java capital of Bandung, which came online in 1965 and produces 2 megawatts of thermal power; in Yogyakarta, in 1979, producing 100 kilowatts of energy; and a 30-megawat reactor in the West Java town of Serpong that began operating in 1987 and is the “largest in the southern hemisphere,” according to Aziz.

The planned nuclear power plant would follow safety standards set down by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), of which Indonesia is a member, said Aziz.

According to Aziz, the national board prepares to meet the latest safety standard set by IAEA, saying that the durability of the reactor will be designed to the maximum extent.

“A sophisticated safety standard is to be applied within the power plant. The reactor is designed to automatically shut down operation once it detects earthquake above the tolerated measure. The fuel containers are also designed to sustain any possible damage due to the earthquake, mainly to prevent leakage,” he said.

Comment: editor@thebalitimes.com


Almost Half of Indonesians Left in the Dark

Around 88 million Indonesians, or 40 percent of the population of 220 million still have no access to electricity, according to the National Atomic Energy Board.

State power firm PLN provides 29,000 megawatts of power – more than 65 percent of it, or 19,000 megawatts, going to the Java-Madura-Bali power grid, the board says.

The remaining 10,000 megawatts is spread around Indonesia’s other main islands, including Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the Malukus, Papua and Nusa Tenggara.

The government hopes that once the planned nuclear power station comes online in Muria Peninsula in Central Java in nine years’ time, there will be sufficient power for all.

Most of those currently without electricity are in small villages in Java, Madura and Bali, says the board, justifying the location of the power plant in Java. (BT)

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