YB Peter Chin, convince me please

Green Ink – LB’s monthly environmental column is making a second appearance this month to pose a rebuttal to YB Peter Chin Fah Kui’s defence of the need for nuclear energy, and on other pertinent questions.

Green Ink - A monthly LoyarBurok column

Green Ink - A monthly LoyarBurok column

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui has defended the need for nuclear energy in the country in his reply at the Parliamentary session earlier this week. I have extracted some of his statements, published in The Star on 8 June 2010, and pose my rebuttal along with some other pertinent questions.

“Peninsular Malaysia cannot depend on gas to produce electricity any more due to constraints in supply and unstable prices,”

Generally, nuclear energy is generated using highly enriched uranium and is non-renewable. The commonly traded component of uranium is U3O8 and is currently traded at approximately US$40/lb or equivalent to US$103/kg of uranium equivalent. Price of U3O8 was stable from 1988 to 2005 and was traded between US$8/lb to US$36/lb.

Price movement was more significant in 2006 onwards with the price peaking in June 2007 at US$136/lb, from the lowest US$37.5/lb in Jan 2006 which equates to a fluctuation of 3.6x.2 Industrial price of natural gas in US, between 2006 to-date, peaked at US$13.05/kft3 from a low of US$5.62/kft3, a fluctuation of 2.5x.2

Nearer to home, Tapis blend, a Malaysian crude, was traded between US$59/barrel in Jan 2007, and US$148/barrel in July 2008, a fluctuation of 2.5x.3

I am not an expert in mineral trading, nor am I a mathematician, but please work harder to convince me to expect nuclear energy to be more stable than gas. Currently Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan supplied more than half of uranium worldwide. When uranium reserve depletes, what will our alternatives be?

“Although the initial cost is high, the operating costs for a nuclear-powered electricity plant is lower than conventional power plants,”

Chin said renewable energy such as solar and wind are not financially viable. Like nuclear, the initial cost for solar may be high, but with increase in demand, the cost of production will naturally lower.

The world’s leading solar companies are now investing in Malaysia as their manufacturing hub, and exporting the photovoltaic panel for power generation. If this is financially viable, I cannot not understand why as the country of manufacture, it is not viable to generate power using solar in Malaysia.

“I believe we must have a mix of renewable and conventional energy sources,”

Look at the energy mix today, we have less than 5% renewable in our energy mix. What concrete action plan is the Minister going to take to improve this? Are we going to stop at saying renewable energy is a non-viable option?

Our Prime Minister recently announced his plan to make Malaysia a high income nation. How will this proposed nuclear plant be part of the plan?

Since we have no experience in the whole cradle to grave process of nuclear power generation, we will have to rely on foreign expertise during the construction of the plant, when the energy is being generated and when it comes to waste disposal. How will Malaysians benefit from this?

Have dinner with me, MP?

Chin said he was unable to answer all the questions posed to him by the MPs, but he invited them to a dinner to meet international nuclear energy experts and discuss their concerns on June 29.

Why not invite me too? Convince me, please.

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Posted on 10 June 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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7 Responses to YB Peter Chin, convince me please

  1. Ng Ai Soo

    Yes, CP, I can. Nuclear power is very very good in relation to baseload and carbon emissions… and getting better (load following) and cheaper! See "How carbon pricing changes the relative competitiveness of low-carbon baseload

    generating technologies" by Martin Nicholson, Tom Biegler & Barry W. Brook which concludes "Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source" to quote the author.

    Look also at "Prescription for the planet" by Tom Blees or "Power to save the world" by G. Cravens who was once anti-nuclear. And if you are really keen on putting together an overall plan for us, try http://www.withouthotair.com/

    Good luck!

  2. @AiSoo Apologies I missed your comments. You seems to be very well verse in Nuke energy, would you be able to advice through the life cycle, 'mining, commissioning, operating, decommissioning, storing of waste', what kind of emission nuke energy would result in?


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  4. Ng Ai Soo

    So… just how much electricity do I need in a year? How many grams of nuclear fuel will that require, how many tonnes of coal, how many barrels of oil/gas? If I want to watch the Brazil v. Cote D'Ivore match at 2:30AM, will the electricity be available when I switch on the light/TV?

    That summarises the problem. Most of us are, of course, addicted to our comforts and the heaviest exercise most of us do is jump to conclusions. Was not the Japanese earthquake "spill" due to a barrel of low-level waste rolling into the drain? Was not the amount of radioactivity spilled into the Japanese Sea equivalent to that contained in two average adult humans, who if they went swimming there would have caused the same radioactivity "release"? Or am I 100% out and it should be 4 people swimming! Would not the entire high-level waste of the British nuclear energy program to-date fit into a single two storey bungalow or two? Is it not the containment that makes it seem larger? How many tonnes of carbon waste are produced to supply my or your electricity for a year?

    Renewables do not supply on demand… they need backup supply in the event of shortfall and/or storage… either as hydrogen fuel or in pumped hydro storage or, heaven forbid, conventional capacity like coal, oil, gas or nuclear. In many cases the transmission costs are also high since best resources may not be located close by and the low energy density requires wide spread generation. So far the proportions of renewables in grids have been small compared to more conventional generators, so that back up and load-following have not been issues which will arise when these proportions increase.

    So "clean" coal was just a few years ago touted as best, but now not so because of the cost/technical problems involved in carbon capture. Nuclear is therefore the most carbon-free 24/7 supply there is today.

    In addition to total costs, always ask for the amounts of fuel or waste involved as this will reveal to you what is best for you to get your yearly electric fix on demand. Are you reading this at night? Ha! Ha! Other than on our roads, surely we have been safer than Exxon or BP or Union Carbide or coal mines wherever… so far – touch wood! Perhaps we should get a bank of small nuclear "batteries" which we buy on condition each is shipped back to the manufacturer when used up and replaced with another on the same terms. Lets ask Toshiba!

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  6. My2cen

    I have 2 reasons to reject the proposal to build a nuclear power plant.

    1. Our govt has extremely poor record of maintenance and controlling wastes. They will never be able to dispose of the nuclear waste safely.

    2. In true UMNO-BN fashion, Billions will be siphoned off from cost over-runs. As usual, the cronies reap the benefits and the rakyat carry the risks. Risks of losing all our reserves (read PKFZ) and lost of lives.

    We are living in the Equator, we have plenty of solar power to be reaped.