Risks of housing nuclear energy plant here outweigh benefits, says Iswaran
Grace Chua Straits Times 16 Oct 12;
CURRENT nuclear energy technology is not suitable for Singapore, a pre-feasibility study has concluded.
Mr S. Iswaran, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, said in Parliament yesterday that the risks of housing a nuclear power plant here to generate electricity still outweigh the benefits, given the country's size and dense population.
But the two-year study by government agencies, external consultants and independent expert advisers, in response to an Economic Strategies Committee recommendation in 2010, did not rule out nuclear energy totally.
It recommended that Singapore continue to monitor new technologies.
The country also needs to strengthen capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology, and in emergency response and radioactive waste disposal, said Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs.
Many of the Republic's Asean neighbours are planning to build nuclear power plants. Vietnam aims to build 10 nuclear reactors by 2030. Malaysia is studying having one in operation by 2021.
Hence, Singapore should also play a role in global and regional cooperation on nuclear safety. It is, for example, a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an inter-governmental body that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Dr T.S. Gopi Rethinaraj, an assistant professor and nuclear energy expert at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, is not surprised the nation has ruled out the nuclear option for now.
"Current technology may not be suitable," he said. This is because the designs require large safety buffers, including an uninhabited zone with a 2km radius and a 5km low-density zone.
Newer, safer designs exist only on paper, he added. These would be at least 20 to 30 years from commercial development.
"In the foreseeable future, the best bet would be natural gas in the near term," he said.
Singapore aims to have a stable, economically competitive supply of energy while minimising carbon emissions and pollution. Eighty per cent of electricity is generated from natural gas piped from Indonesia and Malaysia. It has limited scope for solar, wind and other renewable energies.
But a liquefied natural gas terminal, set to begin operations next year, will allow Singapore to import gas from other countries.
This and the growth of unconventional gas sources like shale gas could help alleviate Singapore's energy security concerns even without a nuclear power plant, said Dr Michael Quah of NUS' chemical and biomolecular engineering department.
And even if Singapore does not build a nuclear plant, others in the region will, and it can help train people for regulatory and other industry roles. "Nuclear has long coat-tails. Where in the supply chain can we develop manpower?" said Dr Quah.
Current nuclear energy technology "not suitable for use in Singapore"
Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 12;
SINGAPORE: Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said a pre-feasibility study has concluded that current nuclear energy technology is not suitable for use in Singapore, even though the latest designs of nuclear power plants are much safer than older designs which remain in use in many countries.
The study involved government agencies, external consultants and independent expert advisers.
Mr Iswaran was speaking in Parliament on Monday in response to a question filed by MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah.
Eighty per cent of Singapore's energy is generated from natural gas imported from neighbouring countries Indonesia and Malaysia.
In 2010, the government embarked on a pre-feasibility study to explore more energy options, looking to overcome Singapore's energy constraints and improve energy security.
The study concluded that nuclear energy will not be an option, for now.
Mr Iswaran said: "The risks to Singapore, given that we are small and dense, still outweigh the benefits at this point. As we are planning for the very long term and not for our immediate energy needs, we prefer to wait for technology and safety to improve further before reconsidering our options. Over time, nuclear power plants with safer and more robust designs will be developed."
Experts added these risks may be unexpected like the Fukushima nuclear plant incident in Japan last year.
National University of Singapore's executive director for Energy Studies Institute, Professor S. K. Chou, said: "You might say the Fukushima incident might never happen to us...But if you look at planning for a disaster or an event, we cannot exclude possibilities. We need to be ready to respond and I think our people will need to be ready to address some of these issues of disaster relief, supplies and logistic issues, ensuring that we can contain the disaster within a certain closed area. If something happens in Jurong, you can't run away to Katong to hide because we are such a small island and because of that we need to be extra vigilant."
Konstantin Foskolos, project adviser from Switzerland, said: "Singapore should wait for a reactor technology that cannot have a severe accident like in Fukushima - where the probability of such an accident is practically zero. Fukushima reactors belong to a technology which is 30,40 years old. They cannot compare with today's reactors. This zero probability for an accident can be achieved by different kinds of technology, which are currently under scrutiny and under development."
Mr Iswaran added that nuclear energy will continue to be part of the energy mix for many countries.
Two-thirds of nuclear power plants being built are located in Asia, with some planned in Southeast Asia.
Mr Iswaran said: "Singapore needs to continue to monitor the progress of nuclear energy technologies, and to strengthen our capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology. It is also important to track related developments in areas such as emergency response and radioactive waste disposal. Then we can assess the implications of evolving nuclear energy technologies and regional nuclear energy developments for Singapore. This will also strengthen our operational preparedness and our existing capabilities in radiation and incident response."
To do this, the government will support research in areas of nuclear science and engineering and train a pool of scientists and experts through education programmes in local and overseas universities.
Mr Iswaran also said Singapore will also play an active role in global and regional cooperation on nuclear safety.
Nuclear energy 'not yet suitable' here
Current designs of nuclear plants pose more risks than benefits for Singapore: Iswaran
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 16 Oct 12;
SINGAPORE - The Government has decided, after recently concluding a pre-feasibility study, that "nuclear energy is not yet suitable for deployment in Singapore", said Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran in Parliament yesterday.
This is because the current designs of nuclear power plants, while much safer than older designs, still pose more risks than benefits for Singapore, a densely populated city, he said in response to Member of Parliament (Nee Soon GRC) Lee Bee Wah, who asked for an update on the pre-feasibility study.
Two years ago, Mr Iswaran announced in Parliament the decision to embark on a pre-feasibility study on nuclear energy, as part of efforts to diversify Singapore's energy mix and ease energy constraints in the long term.
"As we are planning for the very long term and not for our immediate energy needs, we prefer to wait for technology and safety to improve further before reconsidering our options," Mr Iswaran told the House yesterday.
But given that two-thirds of nuclear power plants under construction today are in Asia, Singapore has to continue to monitor the progress of nuclear energy technologies and strengthen its capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology, he noted.
The Government will, therefore, support research in relevant areas of nuclear science and engineering, and a pool of scientists and experts will be trained in local and overseas universities.
"This will also strengthen our operational preparedness and our existing capabilities in radiation and incident response," said Mr Iswaran.
He added that Singapore will be playing an active role in global and regional nuclear safety. As an existing member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Singapore is working closely with other member countries to implement that IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety.
Experts TODAY spoke to emphasised the need for Singapore to monitor nuclear energy developments.
Said Dr Eulalia Han, a Fellow specialising in energy security at the National University of Singapore's Energy Studies Institute: "As a result of Singapore's high urban density, it will be difficult for Singaporeans to escape the effects of a potential nuclear accident in the region."
"In order to prevent a potential nuclear fallout, it is important for ASEAN to engage in nuclear energy cooperation prior to countries acquiring nuclear energy," she added.
Mr Konstantin Foskolos, a consultant in nuclear technology and project advisor for Singapore's pre-feasibility report, also suggested Singapore establish up-to-date, monitoring and early warning systems "in case something goes wrong" in one of the neighbouring countries.
To deal with potential radiological threats, Mr Foskolos, who is the former deputy head of the Nuclear Energy and Safety Research department in Switzerland's Paul Scherrer Institut, suggested complementing the warning systems with Singapore's existing emergency preparedness system.
Risks of housing nuclear energy plant here outweigh benefits, says Iswaran