RI nuclear plan needs further study: Gus Dur
Tony Hotland and Ella Davison, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The debate continues on whether Indonesia should risk using nuclear energy, amid the search for urgently-needed alternative renewable and efficient energy sources to ease dependency on costly and depleting fossil fuels.

The government has said it is looking to have its first 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant up and running in 2017, but so far plans have only included the search for a suitable location, research and a feasibility study.

Former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid said Thursday there were other abundant natural resources which had not yet been maximized. He mentioned alternative energy resources including wind generators, biofuel and geothermal energy.

“We need to conduct more research and preparation, than ever before, if we are intending to build a nuclear power plant. Look at what happened in Chernobyl,” he said after a seminar titled Iran’s Nuclear Program: What Is It For, Can Indonesia Take A Lesson?.

A reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986, in the former Soviet Union, and was the worst nuclear plant accident in history as explosions and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area.

The government, having gone from being a net oil exporter to a net importer, has chosen nuclear as an alternative to diverse energy sources, expecting sufficient and cheap end-results.

Nuclear energy is regarded by some as environmentally friendly because it emits zero carbon dioxide, but its maintenance is extremely costly and is not recommended for nations planning to use it as a small percentage of their energy supply, or who are rich in other resources.

Locals and activists have protested over the location in the Muria Peninsula in Central Java, designated for the nuclear plant, where earthquakes are frequent.

National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan) chairman Hudi Hastowo said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had deemed the spot safe in terms of its seismic and volcanic activity.

Unlike Iran, Hudi said, Indonesia had no plans as yet to process enriched uranium, but suggested the creation of a collective enrichment center with neighboring countries.

“For instance, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have one together. That way, we wouldn’t be suspected like what Iran is facing now,” he said.

Iran has been slapped with two United Nations sanctions for its enrichment activities, stemming from suspicions from the U.S. and its allies that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.

International law experts have warned decision makers to keep powerful states as allies to help convince them that the project is for peaceful purposes.

“International law depends on who has power … Indonesia has to make sure it can never be considered as an axis of evil or a country harboring terrorists,” University of Indonesia professor Hikmahanto Juwana said. (amr)