Locals reject nuclear project on Mount Muria

Suherdjoko , The Jakarta Post , Jepara | Fri, 02/29/2008 1:30 AM | Headlines

Up to 3,000 villagers staged a rally in Jepara, Central Java, Thursday to oppose the planned construction of a nuclear power plant on the regency’s Mount Moria.
The protesters, mostly residents of Balong village in the Kembang subdistrict, as well as students and activists, carried protest posters and banners.

They converged at a building in the middle of a sugar cane plantation which served as the National Atomic Energy Agency’s Ujung Lemah Abang Nuclear Power Station Safety and Research observation facility.

They stopped at the building entrance and addressed the crowd on the risks associated with nuclear power and later worked together to form the foundation of a concrete wall.

“This is our fourth protest since last year,” rally coordinator Firdaus Rahmadi told The Jakarta Post at the site on Thursday.
“We only sealed the building symbolically in the three earlier demonstrations, but now we are really sealing it with a concrete wall.”

He said despite the protests, the government had not been decisive on the construction of the power station, which he said it had planned since the 1980s.

“The presence of the office, built in 1995, indicates that the government will resume with its plan,” Firdaus said.
“We have decided to oppose it due to the risks it would pose to our lives.

“We also demand the central government to revoke the law pertaining to nuclear energy enacted in 1997,” he said.

The idea on the nuclear power plant came from former vice President B.J. Habibie when he was minister for research and technology in the 1990s and it won support from former president Soeharto.

The plan was closely linked with the construction of the large Kedung Ombo dam, but the project was stopped after it met with strong opposition both at home and overseas.

Bricklayers and residents worked hard to erect the wall which measured around eight meters in length.
Trucks carrying sand, bricks, cement and water were going back and forth at the site, right in front of security guards.

Mufid Busyairi, a legislator of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and member of the agriculture and forestry affairs commission at the House of Representatives, was picked to lay the wall’s corner stone, which was followed-up by Balong village officials and residents.

“I purposely came here to observe the public’s aspirations firsthand,” Mufid said.
A number of House members have reportedly decided to oppose the planned nuclear power station.

Those who come from the Jepara electoral district have long-since opposed it.
“But the House is split over the plan,” Mufid said.
Balong village chief Suwanto was compelled to engage in the brick-laying activity because residents urged all village officials to take part.

“I’m in the middle. I can only follow the wishes of the people,” Suwanto said.
“But on the other hand I also wish they could comply with the existing law.
“I’m grateful they have never resorted to anarchy during the series of protests so far,” he said.

A philosophy student at the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Darul Hasyimfath, said he was surprised to see House members at the protest in favor with the people.

“Don’t be a hero in this issue,” he said,
Even we students, who had earlier informed people of the hazards of nuclear energy, feel that we haven’t done anything special.

“The local residents are actually the champions.
“They fight for the cause.

“The House members are just politicians.
“Now they may likely say they oppose the program, but they will be in favor later when the political course shifts,” Darul said.