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Friday May 7, 2010

Nuke plant not in Klang Valley

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s first nuclear power plant should not be built in the Klang Valley which has a high population of seven million people, said the atomic energy regulator.

Atomic Energy Licensing Board director-general Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan said the plant and its buffer zone needed to be constructed on at least 2.6sq-km of land, equal to about 314 football pitches.

Abdul Aziz, who claimed he was neither for nor against nuclear energy, said the plant would need a base of solid rock with little or no seismic movement, more than 10m elevation to be safe from disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes, and located near a large body of water for cooling purposes.

“It needs to be near the electricity grid in order to ‘hook’ onto it and on the least populated area with no other land use.

“So, the Klang Valley is expected to be out,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Abdul Aziz was commenting on a statement by Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui that his ministry was currently conducting a study into constructing Malaysia’s first plant, estimated to cost RM20bil.

He stressed that the Government must fully comply with the advice of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the construction.

“It is important that an independent, internationally recognised agency look at whether our infrastructure meets world standards,” he said, adding that technology using mixed oxide methods could convert plutonium, which was spent nuclear fuel, to become more manageable by recycling part of it.

He said there were also mechanisms whereby vendors could lease nuclear fuel to Malaysia and then take it back for reprocessing.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Nuclear Science Department scientist Prof Datuk Dr Sukiman Sarmani said the plant’s ideal site would be near the Straits of Malacca, among which are Batu Pahat in Johor, Pulau Angsa in Selangor and Sitiawan in Perak.

“Other states like Malacca and Pahang will definitely offer some locations. too,” he said, adding that selection must be subject to the Environmental Impact Assessment and Radiological Impact Assess­ment.

Dr Sukiman said while there was already a storage facility for low-level radioactive material in Belanja, Perak, spent fuel waste could also be kept in an underground mine.

“The Sungai Lembing tin mine is quite suitable for such a long-term storage,” he said, adding that as a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory, Malaysia was not allowed to process spent nuclear fuel from a reactor.

Both men also agreed that the current third and fourth generation nuclear reactors were safe and reliable, having “evolved” from the unstable first and second generation plants such as the one in Chernobyl.

Abdul Aziz said the Government might be looking into building two 500 MV plants while Dr Sukiman said a 2,000 MV plant was necessary for a 25% energy reserve to attract foreign investments.

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