Liputan6.com, Jakarta - Indonesia has long discourse about building the nuclear power plant (NPP). More eco-friendly reasons and cheaper usage fees are considered.
This is exactly why we have the National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN), established in 1964. Indonesia has already proven the ability to operate 3 nuclear reactors: the Triga Mark II Reactor near the campus of Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), the Kartini Reactor with 100 kW reactor power in Yogyakarta and the reactor in Serpong, Tangerang, powered 30 MW.
However, security issues related to radiation, large investments and the fear of Indonesia's disaster-prone areas, are still obstacles to the soonest construction of nuclear power in the country.
Indonesia still have other sources of power such as coal and gas. But over time, these energy sources are decreasing and Indonesia have to start looking for new renewable (alternative) energy sources to meet the energy needs of the country. One of them is the NPP.
Some time ago, Liputan6.com had a chance to interview Kirill Komarov, Deputy Chairman of the World Nuclear Association.
According to Komarov, the existence of a nuclear plant for Indonesia will be very beneficial. This is an attempt to create a new renewable source of energy as well as a big step of Indonesia to face the climate change.
"We know that the majority of energy in Indonesia currently is made from coal. But we know also that this is not good for human health. We believe nuclear energy will benefit all parties," said Mr. Komarov, who is also the Deputy CEO of the state-owned Nuclear Rosatom State Atomic Energy.
He also gave an overview how big is the opportunity for Indonesia to build a nuclear power plant.
Some excerpts from the interview are presented below:
Drawing attention to the statements of the government on the construction of nuclear power plants, it seems that it is still reluctant to implement such a project. Is that true?
You know, definitely, the solution to construct a nuclear power plant is a very important solution. It can be done only by the government of the country. And we fully respect the position of each and every country when to do it, how to do it, what should be the conditions of such a project. And we all understand that it is not a story which can be done very quickly.
To be able to construct a nuclear power plant a country should be very well prepared. And it’s not just a question of making a solution. It is a question of huge preparation work: to select a site, where a nuclear power plant can be constructed, to make a survey on this site, to prepare a lot of elements of so called nuclear infrastructure, which means legislation, experienced people, independent nuclear regulator and so on. And, definitely, Indonesia is not a newcomer in nuclear area, because you have BATAN, a very experienced organization, which works already many decades, and they accumulated already huge experience in nuclear research and different type of nuclear studies. But, believe me, nuclear energy is a next very important step and country should be prepared.
It was a Mission of International Atomic Energy Agency, which was several years ago. The Mission said that the majority of elements which country needs to have to be able to come to nuclear energy already exist in Indonesia. There are some elements which are still missing, for example, the company responsible for the nuclear development is not appointed by the government. It is necessary to do it, otherwise we just do not have counterparty to whom you can connect and discuss. I do not think that it is a bad story that government still did not make a solution on construction of a nuclear power plant.
As you know, definitely, nuclear energy is not prohibited in Indonesia, and in your energy policy it is written that it is possible to construct a nuclear power plant in Indonesia. And today we had a very interesting meeting. When I say “we”, I mean we have a Mission here of World Nuclear Association. It is not Rosatom visit to the country. It is a visit of World Nuclear Association – the biggest nuclear non-governmental organization in the world that combines more than 1600 companies from all over the world, involved in all areas of nuclear business starting from mining of uranium up to operation of nuclear power plants. And we all are here. Together with us is a deputy director general of International Atomic Energy Agency. Together with us is director general of World Association of Nuclear Operators. We all are here to help our Indonesian colleagues to come to the solution that it is a good idea to construct a nuclear power plant in Indonesia.
Why we believe it is good? Because nuclear power plant is not just a source of energy. First of all, it is a big impulse for the development of the country, for high technological development, for creation of new jobs – not just simple jobs but high technological jobs, which requires educated people, requires highly prepared people – and we see in many countries that the influence of the construction of nuclear power plant to the economy of the country, to the growth of GDP. It is not just producing energy, it is much broader. Our calculation gives us figures that each and every dollar invested in the economy of each and every country for the construction of a nuclear power plant gives more than four dollars in a grow up of GDP of a country. It is a very huge solution, it is really national solution. And we feel the full respect to the government of Indonesia who wants to be very well prepared before making this solution. At the same time, I can say that I believe that for Indonesia to establish a nuclear industry is a good choice. Because, first of all, you need to think how you will fulfill your solution about participation in climate problem, how you will work in a logic to decrease the amount of CO2 emission. You know, definitely, that the majority of energy in your country is now based on coal. It is a good source of energy, but maybe not so many people are happy now about coal, because it is a very well known fact that coal burning is not good for health of people. And if people are thinking about future, if people are thinking about clear future, about good health for them, for their children, they should have different options to choose. Renewables is very well, it is solar, wind, it is definitely good, but not enough to establish a balanced and stable energy system. That is why we believe that combination of renewable energy, nuclear energy is a future for each and every country including Indonesia.
One of the obstacles Indonesia has not yet to build a nuclear power plant are security problems such as radiation. How to convince the locals?
First of all, what is now constructed in the world? It is so called generation V+ reactors. They are definitely very safe. If you look at the statistics of how many incidents you can see in the energy sector of the whole world, the energy accidents on the nuclear power plant are on the lowest level in comparison to what is going on in the coal plants, or gas plants, or hydro plants. What we as Rosatom are doing today, first of all, we do not provide a technology to foreign countries which we do not use in our country. You visited Novovoronezh nuclear power plant. Just yesterday we launched the same type of plant, but on the other site – not in Novovoronezh, but on Leningradskaya site – it is close to St. Petersburg. Look, we do it very close to two biggest cities – to Moscow and St. Petersburg – and we do not have fears that something goes wrong. And we propose to our friends, to our partners in foreign countries only proven solutions, only technologies which we use for our own needs. Otherwise we do not go to any countries.
First, we construct such a plant in our own country, only afterwards we come with the same technology to another country. And I can definitely give you a very very detailed answer why the technology is safe, how many elements of active and passive system of safety we have. But if we talk about public acceptance, it is not a question about a lot of technical details. First of all, it is question of proper work, because if you are not open, if you do not answer people’s questions, if you do not provide them information, you will never reach public acceptance. Public acceptance is not something, let me say, “standing alone”, it is a story of dialogue, it is a story of communication. If you communicate with people, people do not have fears. I can give you one very interesting example.
Every year we make a survey in Russia on how many people are supporting nuclear. And we are happy today, that we have approximately 75% of people in our country supporting as maximum – development of nuclear energy, as minimum they are supporting to have existing nuclear plants in our country. But at the same time every year we make a survey on what people in our nuclear cities – cities around nuclear power plants like you were in Novovoronezh – what people of such small cities are thinking about nuclear power plants.
Look, a lot of people can imagine, that if you live to close to some nuclear facilities: a nuclear power plant or an enrichment factory, or uranium mine, you have a lot of fears because if something happens, you are the first, who is immediately influenced by the result. But you know, what is very, maybe, strange (but for us it is clear why it is so), in our small cities around nuclear power plants, the level of support is not 75%, it is 90%. It is much higher. Why? Because people have access to the open and direct information. Sometimes, sorry to say this to you, because you are a journalist, people do not have trust to mass media. People do not trust government employees, when they say something, but people trust to neighbors, people trust to friends, people trust to relatives. If they work on this plant, or they have friends or members of the family working on nuclear power plant, even if there are some rumors, people can call by telephone and ask “Hi! Everything is ok or not?”. If people have direct access to information, if people know that everything goes well; on the other side, people have bigger salaries, people have predictable future, people do not take care about education of people, because the level of education in our nuclear cities is much higher than in other parts of the country. People want to live there, people do not want to escape, people do not have any fears. Controversially, they are supporting the development of nuclear energy. It means for me that if you work with people, if you explain them what kind of advantages nuclear energy can give them: not just energy, but a lot of other advantages: good predictable jobs, good salaries, good opportunities for educating children, people are supporting nuclear.
If Indonesia agrees to develop a nuclear plant, do you have any feasibility studies in which area a nuclear power plant will be? As you know, Indonesia has so many earthquakes. That is half of our people concern.
Look, even if you take Fukushima example. It was incredibly high seismicity earthquake – more than 9 degrees. Afterwards it was tsunami of 15 meters. Nuclear power plant was not broken. Nuclear power plant stayed stable despite of the fact that it was previous technology. It was constructed 40 years ago. It was honestly an old nuclear power plant, and even this nuclear power plant survived in this situation. What happens afterwards – it was not a question of nuclear technology, it was honestly people’s fault, because they did not do everything in a correct way. Today nuclear power plants are constructed in a logic to be able to survive even in case of very difficult earthquake, difficult tsunami, total blackout of electricity. Modern nuclear power plants even exclude the people’s factor, because if you have not just active system of safety which depends from people’s behavior, but if you have passive system of safety, you do not need people. Even if everything is so bad there is no staff on a nuclear power plant, nuclear power plant can be automatically switched off, cooled down and everything will be ok in an automatic regime without people involved. I think that, as far as I know, BATAN made a lot of surveys on what kind of sites in Indonesia are available for construction of a nuclear power plant. There are a lot of sites, as minimum 4 or 5 potential sites, where a nuclear power plant can be constructed. It is just a solution of Indonesian government which site to choose to construct the first one. But let me tell you, that in Russian Federation we have a big competition between our regions who will be the next to construct a nuclear power plant, because every governor wants to have for the region the advantage to create a huge infrastructural project with a lot of money invested, with a lot of jobs created. We have really competition, not fears about construction of plant, but competition who will be the next.