Malaysia should learn the lessons from the Japan Nuclear Catastrophe

726 last six days has been the hardest moments for Japan as a nation as they are faced with an earthquake of a magnitude of 9.0, followed by the nuclear explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plants with a radiation contamination threat.

Malaysians extend their greatest sympathies to Japan for the earthquake that has struck in such unexpected fashion. Indeed, the people of Japan had shown great courage in face of the national tribulation which has been described as the worst disaster of the nation after World War II.

The incident had revealed the inconvenient truth for the proponent of nuclear power that it is a high-risk gamble. Officials in Japan have said that the nuclear reactor was built to withstand disasters. Yet the accident which occurred has caused such detrimental result.

The incident in Japan should be a stern warning for Malaysia and other countries which are contemplating to embark on a nuclear project. While we acknowledge the potential of nuclear energy, adequate precautionary steps need to be taken extra-carefully as once disturbed, the danger posed is much higher than other method of energy generation. Currently, the radiation has increased to 8 times than normal exposure in Japan.

Malaysia is a country blessed with resources and we have other alternatives in energy generation such as solar, water which is more environmental friendly with less risk involved. We are also set to be the world third largest producer of solar cell. Moreover, nuclear technology is a highly water-intensive industry, as water is used as the primary coolant to prevent the reactor from overheating. This is why nuclear plants are often situated on the coastlines so that they can utilize the seawater. This also makes them very vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis.

Studies had shown that nuclear power is not as cost-effective as it is being portrayed. Experts had estimated the cost projections of nuclear power at an average of RM0.50/kWh, higher than the energy generation cost of Malaysia which is RM0.30/kWh. Studies had also shown that the cost of electricity from some forms of renewable energy, like concentrating solar thermal, could be as cheap as RM0.15/kWh by 2020. Instead of investing in nuclear power which neither makes environmental nor economic sense, Malaysia should seriously consider alternatives such as renewable energy.

Moreover, most nuclear plants in the world have suffered significant profit delay and cost overrun. For example, South Korea and Japan have seen a 25 per cent increase in average costs for nuclear energy, in Finland that figure is 90 per cent, and the cost is trending upwards. Could it be a viable industry in Malaysia, given our bad track record in corruption and mega-project failures?

The Malaysian government should take the incident in Japan as a lesson and review its nuclear project. Malaysian government should consider realistically the capability of Malaysia to operate nuclear energy generation – in which the plant works like the huge boiling pot, and more so, to handle it safely and ensure that no accident will occur. If in a developed country like Japan, with nearly 60 years of experience in nuclear technology, miscalculations and accidents could occur, is Malaysia confident enough to handle nuclear plant?

The pros and cons of nuclear project should be carefully studied and weighed upon – this is no laughing matter, as it concerns human lives. Other safer method of energy generation should be relied upon before we embarked on this high-risk venture.

Many countries had called for a halt for nuclear energy, including in Poland, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland. To date, Malaysian Cabinet has been adamant about the pursuit of the project, with the deputy prime minister’s statement that Malaysia aim to proceed with the nuclear ambition, while the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Peter Chin Fah Kui, is avoiding the issue.

Malaysian Government should learn the lesson from the nuclear catastrophe in Japan and should not risk the people’s safety because of policy carelessness.

Media statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Thursday, 17th March 2011