Nuclear Malaysia: Shortsightedness in a Greening Global Economy?

Is nuclear power the right choice for our nation? Malaysians must make an informed decision. Nuclear power is only one of the available options – it is however the most expensive, most dangerous and most inefficient one.


Source: .org

Malaysians must decide if nuclear energy is the right choice for our country. The key word to note here is “choice” – there is now an increasing number of truly clean and renewable energies in solar, wind, tidal, wave, etc. Nuclear energy is merely one of the many available options. For some, however, the threat of climate change and peak oil has forced a false dilemma of either nuclear or unabated global warming.

Nuclear is neither renewable nor clean. Nuclear is not only potentially catastrophic to human lives, but is also now economically, socially and environmentally inferior to the new technologies mentioned.

The recent UK Sustainable Development Commission answered a clear “no” to nuclear as a solution to our energy and climate crisis. [1]

Nuclear is more costly

In fact, if we take the example of solar power in Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) plants, this is widely expected to come to cost parity with fossil fuel power generation by 2020 or earlier.

Conservative estimates by studies done for the US Department of Energy [2] and by McKinsey [3] expect the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LEC) at around RM0.17-RM0.36/kWh in 2020, with an optimistic scenario of as low as RM0.11/kWh.

These figures are supported by an award-winning and peer-recognized research conducted by the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute, which expects the range at RM0.15-RM0.24/kWh for CST with molten salt storage for “better-than-baseload” performance. [4]

(LEC is a method of measurement which factors in all costs involved throughout the lifespan of a power plant, per unit of the total power generated.)

This is on par with or cheaper than our current cost of electricity of RM0.315/kWh[5] once government subsidies are taken into account.

However, the LEC for nuclear is estimated at around RM0.321/kWh to RM0.414/kWh[6][7], and expected to increase. It must be noted that the LEC for nuclear is highly variable due to large risks and uncertainties as demonstrated by the most recent example in Finland’s Olkiluoto plant.[8]

There is a strong consensus in the industry and among analysts that technologies like solar, wind, tidal, wave will become considerably cheaper in the near future as economies of scale of manufacturing is achieved and the technology matures.[3] Today, wind power has already reached cost parity with fossil fuel power in some countries. [7]

However, the opposite is true for fossil fuel including nuclear as reserves dwindle.[9]

Other alternatives more viable

Solar Energy

Solar Energy

Kudos to the Malaysian government for recognizing that we need to diversify our energy mix and decentralize power generation. This is both achievable and affordable with solar, wind, tidal, wave. These green technologies also ensure energy security for our nation without having to rely on fuel imports. Nuclear is neither sustainable nor offers any of the above.

Theoretically, based on research by UniMAP and UKM,[10] which is supported by the German Aerospace Centre’s data,[11] and today’s panel efficiency of 20%, less than 0.1% of our land surface is required to power the entire nation today with solar PV (photo-voltaic) technology. We have a long coastline that’s exposed to the open South China Sea, offering good potential for tidal, wave and marine current energy as confirmed by UKM[12] and UTM[13].

Why does Malaysia have to rush into nuclear now? Is it because a nuclear plant takes 10-15 years to build and we need to meet energy demands in 2020? The solution to this is easily met by solar, as even the largest solar installations like CST plants only require 2-5 years to complete[4]. Surely, we can wait until 2020 when solar becomes as cheap as today’s prices, if not cheaper.

Currently, we have more than 50% reserve margin or excess power.[5] Today’s Total Installed Generation Capacity of close to 22,000MW is over and above the projected demand in 2020.[14] We can also utilize the vast amount of palm biomass as an intermediate measure before 2020.

We can all see that we do not need to rush into nuclear

The price tag for nuclear is a staggering RM21.3 Billion. If this is needed to get us to the ETP targets, it is clear this amount is far better invested in truly clean power technologies that hold a very bright future. More jobs can be created with a renewable energy sector.[4]

Malaysia could invest this amount to attract green power manufacturing and R&D. Western technologies are now superior to those from China or India, but are more expensive. There is then an urgent need to find cheaper locations of manufacturing,[3] and this is where Malaysia has the advantage of a relatively educated workforce yet low cost of labour.

It is not hard to see that we can become a green energy hub in the region, and not just for solar. Green energy investments have become one of the fastest growing sectors in the world today and we could ride on this green wave. Clean renewable energy can also earn us considerable revenue from Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which excludes nuclear. Hence, the potential for the desired socio-economic multiplier effect with truly clean power is undeniable.

Nuclear power will bring more harm than good

The same cannot be said for nuclear as we would be fools to harbour hopes of becoming anything more than a nuclear consumer. International non-proliferation policies will guarantee the barriers to homegrown nuclear development. Think Iran.

The list of negatives for nuclear is long and real.

The European Free Alliance’s 2007 report entitled “Residual Risk” [15] says:

“…many nuclear safety related events occur year after year, all over the world, in all types of nuclear plants and in all reactor designs and there are very serious events that go either entirely unnoticed by the broader public or remain significantly under-evaluated when it comes to their potential risk.”

A Third World Network article [16] states:

There have also been many accidents that did not escalate purely out of chance, often involving the intervention of human operators rather than any technical safety feature. Such interventions cannot be taken for granted.”

Malaysians from all walks of life are gravely concerned about the safety of nuclear on our shores, but where is the public consultation as outlined in ETP? The government must do the right thing and get the Malaysian peoples’ approval.

Where will all the nuclear waste be kept? The Malaysian public does not have the confidence in our police and defence to provide such high-level security especially since the recent theft of the army jet engines. Thus, having a nuclear plant in our own backyard actually introduces a security threat!

Has the government taken into account the heavy costs of decommissioning nuclear plants? Not only does this require a few decades, another 9-15% of the original price tag is a must just for dismantling.[17]

Look to the future!

It is widely known that nuclear is associated with a range of negative externalities that cannot be monetized,[8] including the unfulfilled moral obligation of leaving behind a better world than we inherited for our children. Nuclear’s dark potential as a weapon of mass-destruction and its checkered past and future is not the sort of legacy we will be proud of.

In today’s world of climate change and rapidly advancing green power technologies and retreating costs, nuclear is sheer shortsightedness for a country blessed with abundant renewable sources of clean power. The ETP is about investing for tomorrow, catalyzing growth for the future and this means truly clean & renewable power in solar, wind, tidal, wave, etc, that will last for generations to come. Nuclear is without doubt far cleaner than coal and gas, but that’s looking into the past, not the future.

Ken Yeong loves his coffee and sashimi, but loves creation/earth more so its soy latte and sardines. He’s taking time out to learn from sonny River while wife studies in Melbourne.

References

[1] Porritt, J., 2006, “Is Nuclear the Answer?”, Sustainable Development Commission, Accessed Nov 3, 2010

[2] Sargent & Lundy LLC Consulting Group, 2003, “Assessment of Parabolic Trough and Power Tower Solar Technology Cost and Performance Forecasts“, Chicago, Illinois, Accessed Oct 30, 2010

[3] Lorenz, P. et al, 2008, “The Economics of Solar Power“, McKinsey & Company, Accessed: Oct 31, 2010

[4] Wright, M. and Hearps, P., 2010, “Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan“, University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute, Australia, Accessed Sep 2010

[5] Suruhanjaya Tenaga, 2009, “Electricity Supply Industry in Malaysia: Performance & Statistical Information”, Malaysia

[6] U.S. Department of Energy, 2010, “2016 Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources from the Annual Energy Outlook 2010“, Report of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Accessed Oct 30, 2010

[7] Lazard, 2009, “Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis – Version 3.0“, Accessed Oct 29, 2010

[8] Kessides, I. N., 2010, “Nuclear power: Understanding the economic risks and uncertainties”, Energy Policy Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 3849-3864

[9] Sovacool, B. K., 2007, “Coal and nuclear technologies: creating a false dichotomy for American energy policy“, Policy Science 40, pp 101-112, Accessed Oct 31, 2010

[10] Azhari A. W. et al, 2008, “A New Approach for Predicting Solar Radiation In Tropical Environment Using Satellite Images – Case Study of Malaysia”, WSEAS Transactions on Environment and Development 4, pp 373-377

[11] Trieb, F. et al, 2009, “Global Potential of Concentrating Solar Power”, SolarPACES, Sep 15-18, Berlin

[12] Abdul Maulud, K. N. et al, 2008. “Identification A Potential Wave Energy Location In Malaysia Using GIS”, Proceedings Of WSEAS International Conference On Mathematical Methods, Computational Techniques, Non-Linear Systems, Intelligent System, pp 426-430

[13] Yaakob, O., et al, 2006, “Prospects for Ocean Energy in Malaysia”, International Conference on Energy and Environment 2006 (ICEE 2006)

[14] Haji Abu, M. P., 2010, “Nuclear Power Programme Development in Malaysia – Prospects and Preparation“, Malaysian Nuclear Agency, Accessed Oct 30, 2010

[15] Bidwai, P., 2010, ” ‘Clean’ nuclear energy and a nuclear renaissance: hype and hyperbole“, Third Word Network No. 235, pp 5-9, Accessed Oct 29, 2010

[16] Kumar, A., 2010, “Nuclear power and public safety“, Third World Network No. 235, pp 10-13, Accessed Oct 29, 2010

[17] World Nuclear Association, 2010, “The Economics of Nuclear Power“, Accessed Oct 30, 2010


(Visited 419 times, 2 visits today)

Tags: , ,

Posts by

Posted on 11 November 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

Read more articles posted by .

Read this first: LB Terms of Use

12 Responses to Nuclear Malaysia: Shortsightedness in a Greening Global Economy?

  1. Ken

    I’ve learnt from you Ai Soo, not least for the bravenewclimate.com resource which has civility as a foremost rule for comments. So, goodbye.

  2. Ng Ai Soo

    Dear Ken,

    Oh… you want me to enlighten the public… because I have undertaken the journey? Does this mean you have not? Then why do you come to sweeping conclusions? Why do you try to advise us? Be humble, watch and learn by investigation and by observation. Be very careful what you accept and consume as true. After all, we are all radioactive!

    I am in Malaysia, you are in Australia… so I give references which you can actually go and hear/question in person… that’s all. I live in the doldrums… so the wind regime at whatever height is poor relative to the higher latitudes. Super winds do not normally exist here, especially not in large enough areas to make feasible amounts of wind power for the nation. We are poorer per capita than the West or Australia, so we should not be asked to make sacrifices for the richer nations, like the poorer citizens of Australia are having to subsidise the richer ones who can afford to install solar. Which is why The Australian says “Greg Combet has moved to quell anger over rising electricity prices by slashing incentive payments for householders who install solar panels on their roofs.” but you say it is nothing to do with solar and everything to do with “aging infrastructure”. What is your basis?

    Do not misunderstand me. Carbon is central to this issue. But renewable does not mean no carbon… it means slightly lower carbon, so much so that the saving in carbon is not worth the expenditure on renewables like wind and solar. Basically they need to be backed up in case the wind drops or a cloud passes overhead. The backup is often fossil fuel in Europe so the savings in carbon are reduced. If carbon is not central we should use coal for baseload… otherwise we should use nuclear. Both Germany and Japan use nuclear as well as other sources.

    Yes I am making the journey… so get off your behind and make it as well! The report you quote “Stationary Energy Report” has been read, digested, debunked and the results are at http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-cri…. Please do not forget to read the 333 comments it attracted, for and against! In no way does it detract from the conclusion that nuclear is the safe, economic, clean and green choice for the supply of electricity, if you do not want to burden the planet with more carbon that is. Otherwise use coal, cheap and dirty. But above all, try to use your own brains a little for the sake of our grandchildren. If you cannot be bothered to understand, no amount of enlightenment will help.

  3. Ken

    Hi Ai Soo, appreciate your participation in this – pls keep it coming! :>

    The nuclear power issue is a very country-driven one and I cannot comment on Australia as the article is on Malaysia and my research focuses on nuclear in Malaysia. If you want good sound research on renewables & abit on why nuclear is inferior vs renewables in Australia, you can check out Australia’s own Beyond Zero Emissions report: http://www.energy.unimelb.edu.au/uploads/ZCA2020_Stationary_Energy_Report_v1.pdf

    For rising cost of electricity in Australia, it’s clear that aging distribution infrastructure is the cause, not solar panels. Again, I’m not following this closely but with closer research you will find it. Feed-in-tariffs have worked in Germany and Japan and is already accepted as one of the key ingredients to make small-scale green power generation successful. Again, it costs us all money but we need to invest to help it take off.

    Most governments and businesses now know carbon will be bad for them, and so they’re trying to move to less carbon and even zero carbon. Sure, it’s not all about saving our climate and earth, but nobody in their right minds will dispute that humanity is linked to its environment. To only look at trees is to miss the forest; we need to look at trees and how we humans are connected to them. The global economy will never green without jobs or profits, much like the global economy would never have gotten “online” if it were just about fax machine savings.

    Am not getting you on the “carbon does not come into the picture”. Please explain again.

    How high is the sail of boats as compared to the new generation of superwind turbines? Boats are offshore, wind farms can be on shore.

    Please make the realistic, wise and responsible choice for your fellow citizens as you say and summarize ANU, Seligman, Mackay and Brook work for all of us to see here. My sweeping conclusion remains Malaysia need not rush into nuclear now as renewables are forecasted to be cheaper in 2020 (article is not talking about now, but 2020) and renewables bring with it a whole host of socio-economic benefits, unless you provide researched data to back up your disagreement Ai Soo. You sound like you’ve undertaken the journey, so do enlighten us.

  4. Ng Ai Soo

    Dear Ken,

    On the day after you reply, strangely this appears in the Herald Sun paper http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/only-nuclear-… in response to the Prime Ministers statement that “Nuclear power doesn't stack up as an economically efficient source of power.” Have a good read, and also in the other papers like “Solution is nuclear power” in The Daily Telegraph (http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/nuclear-power-is-the-clear-solution/story-fn6bmfwf-1225964778408) and inform us what the story is.

    What I can make out is that Australia should use coal unless it wants to cut carbon, in which case it should without doubt go nuclear. Now in West Malaysia we are going to build another coal fired 1GWe power station which is the cheapest option for electricity supply available provided the price of coal does not jump up.

    If the Prime Minister of Australia also can be confused, you are in good company. But with a little diligent research and careful thinking, I am sure you will easily sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    For solar subsidies in Australia today, see http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/… and please remember to follow the discussion and the related news links. Essentially, if I am not wrong, it is a case of the poor (rental homes) subsidising the rich (owner occupiers who install the panels with the subsidy and get exorbitant feed-in tariffs). And all for a measly 0.015% saving in carbon in total nationally according to the ANU report I quoted in my last post.

    The “greening global economy” is not about saving the climate by cutting carbon… it is about jobs for people putting up solar panels and wind farms. We in Malaysia are already beneficiaries of this since European companies have set up shop here to produce the stuff subsidised by their taxpayers and not saving much carbon at all. Australians buy their solar panels from China. We do not want their high electricity prices, so we use coal, cheap and dirty… after all they in the West also do not care about carbon or they would go nuclear!

    Climate change is normal, but human forcing of this change is new. This so-called AGW is said by scientists to be due, among other things, to carbon dioxide and methane, the latter from mining and extraction of fossil fuels and the former from transport and industries like cement and electricity supply. So sadly, carbon does come into the picture, front and centre.

    By the way, Sabah has long been called “Land below the Wind” not without reason. The strong monsoon winds seem to miss it most of the time. Wind power is low here and if available is very unpredictable compared with the winds blowing in the higher latitudes. This is called the “doldrums”, the bane of sailors yesteryear.

    Have you been to ANU yet? Now go to http://www.withouthotair.com for an example of a proper method of evaluation of different national energy options by David MacKay or see Peter Seligman’s attempt to do a similar analysis in http://energy.unimelb.edu.au/ozsebtn/ at the Melbourne Uni Energy Research Institute. Peter differs from Barry Brook from Adelaide at http://www.bravenewclimate.com/ but this is the kind of consideration required for a making a realistic, wise and responsible choice for your fellow citizens. I hope you have fun doing the research! Try not to bring us sweeping conclusions about the destination before you undertake the journey.

  5. Ken

    Thanks for sharing Ai Soo. I’m abit confused by some of your comments and will try to address them here.

    Solar subsidies in Australia. I’m not familiar with it, but yes it’s getting to be costly as more and more homes opt for the panels, but the govt is reeling in the subsidies because it underestimated the number of households which will opt in. So it’s a budget problem. As for whether it’s costly to subsidise solar, sure yes, but it always is with new emerging technologies to help grow it beyond infancy. The internet was very much backed by lots of funding to get it off the ground.

    On storage at night when sun is not shining, there is already the technology in molten salt rolling out now and potential is ammonia splitting developing.
    http://www.torresolenergy.com/TORRESOL/gemasolar-plant/en
    http://www.wizardpower.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16&Itemid=17

    Why don’t you share on what the ANU has learnt about producing energy and wave power and why it’s not done in Australia? As far as I’m aware, wave is not yet mature now but should be quite competitive in 2020.

    According to another university in Malaysia, Sabah offers the best wind resources based on the current generation of wind turbines at their heights, but check out the latest super high turbines which can harvest higher wind speeds due it its height and size:
    http://www.enercon.de/de-de/

    We should not need to use biomass power because we already have enough power at this moment for 2020 needs. Biomass is just an intermediate measure. Biomass is also a net carbon emitter, so no I don’t prefer this form.

    The article was never about just carbon. It’s about nuclear, climate change and the greening global economy. Nuclear doesn’t help Msians advance in a tangible manner in terms of socio-economics and global competitiveness. Renewables do. We should never look at just carbon, as this is unbalanced and just as detrimental as looking just at $.

    Sorry to disagree, but nuclear is not the cleanest (life cycle emissions is worse than renewables), not the greenest (again, life cycle emissions, mining damage, continued grid dependence, etc) and by far not the safest (sure, immaculate safety record, but still not as safe as renewables).

  6. Ng Ai Soo

    Dear Ken,

    On the day your opinion was posted here, this appeared in the Melbourne paper The Age, “$1.1bn wasted on solar power”. Since you are there, could you kindly investigate this report since Australia has better solar potential than Malaysia due to having less cloud cover… and if they have “wasted” money on this with little carbon benefits, then perhaps we should pay heed. After all, if solar in such a good place for it like Australia still requires massive subsidies, then maybe we should hold off until it gets cheaper. Which you yourself suggest we do until 2020… and that we use EFB in the meantime like MPOB does? And do we not have to store the solar energy for use at night?

    And is the consumer price for electricity in Australia cheaper than in France which is 75% nuclear? Perhaps we should follow the French example. Or the British who have just approved eight sites for more nuclear, or the Swedish who last year cancelled the phasing out of nuclear or the Germans who have just done the same. There is plenty of Uranium if used in the French way and the price of Uranium fuel has minimal impact on the selling price of the electricity produced, unlike fossil fueled electricity.

    Nuclear is currently the safest choice for the production of base load electricity even with the accidents that you mention and some that you did not! Just last week some coal miners lost their lives not far from you.

    While you are at ANU finding out why they have produced such “a scathing review” (as per The Age), please check out how come Australia is not exploiting its much much more considerable wave energy resources than Malaysia. The ANU have a very respectable research group on energy. Perhaps you will learn something.

    Kindly let us know where in Malaysia is the wind regime good enough for implementation of large wind farms like in Australia.

    Based on your analysis, China should not have built the Three Gorges dam because it suffered the Banqiao Dam tragedy in 1975, which resulted in 26,000 flooding fatalities according to information declassified in 2005. But worse than this, it seems they have also rebuilt the Banqiao Dam. Why did they not learn the lesson from the tragedy and go on building dams? Like you are asking us to do based on what you perceive falsely and broadcast as our imcompetence. Please advise them of their follies and also ask them kindly to refrain from building coal-fired power stations at the rate of one a week. The Asian Brown Cloud from this will blow across (and pollute the fish in) the South China Sea, and while it may not reach Melbourne, certainly impinges on us here in Malaysia during the North East Monsoon to add to our woes from haze when fire is used nearby for land clearing during the other Monsoon.

    By the way, your reference 9 is here promoting nuclear next door – http://www.thoriumsingapore.com/

    And your wonderful in other aspects MPOB research cannot yet produce cheap enough EFB derived electricity to run themselves, let alone the rest of us!

    While you are in Australia, please find out if your carbon footprint is better or worse than in Malaysia. Please do not confuse renewable with carbon alleviation. If you want to reduce carbon then do just that and try not to get side tracked by other things. The most effective way today to reduce carbon in electricity production is to go nuclear now. It is the safest, cleanest, greenest and, if all pollution is costed in, the most economical source of electricity we have today. And it is improving!

  7. LimKimKat

    AgreeToDisagree, something tells me youre not even malaysian, are you not???

  8. Lord Bobo pls help here! I need you to cover the below issue. See the below link!

    http://malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/from-around-t

    And here is my response :

    This is a sham election! 300 people out of over 1.5 million?!? How does this count as democratic? Was there even provision to allow for 10,000 to vote? And if there was space for 10,000 would not even count!

    The lack of mechanism provided by DAP to allow every person in every district to vote makes this an extremely tilted affair, a closed election!

    I propose the entire election be carried out in a proper manner at once with ballot boxes in every district and constituency! Any NGOs ready to file suit? Where is the State Governor??? This is a farce! Bloody murder of democracy!

    Lord Bobo – help to challenge this DAP horror! 40 NGOs do not make for legality of anything! They can’t be allowed to call these Local Council Elections at all!

    How should this Local Council Election have been done?

    1) Put out adverts (as they did) asking state citizens to nominate or apply for candidacy. The top 20 will be sent forms to fill in.

    2) Candidates who reply and pass vetting will be put on a form. Send this form with that list of candidates to EVERY address in Penang asking them to nominate

    or apply for candidacy.

    3) Wait 3 months for the recipients to post back this form with the selectable candidates.

    This would cost 20 sen per letter to send making the cost 300K for Penang which has 1.5 million people. Or to absorb the cost, 50 sen in stamps must be sent in as well.

    4) Counting begins. results posted in newspaper.

    NOT get a bunch of cronies to effectively FIX the election by effectively not making elections inaccessible to the public! Someone should sue DAP!

    Also, please end the APARTHEID as well!

    Your concerned citizen,

    AgreeToDisagree

  9. Ken

    Thanks for your encouraging comment Aerie.

    The non-pproliferation policy/treaty will block any homegrown developments and advancements in nuclear for Malaysia in the sense that we will not be allowed to make any meaningful progress in taking nuclear power further on our own. Hence, we will forever depend on Western technologies, and buy them as a consumer.

    The opposite is true for green power technologies. As they are not as complex as nuclear and there are not laws to curb it's advancement, it is up to us Malaysians to develop it further, much like palm oil for example where we're leading the R&D.

    And yes, general consensus is that LEC and nuclear fuel will rise in the future as supplies decline and reserves become harder and harder to mine.

  10. Aerie Rahman

    Sir,

    Good article. I was very interested at the cost factor. However, on the harms, you said "if international non-proliferation policies will guarantee the barriers to homegrown nuclear development. Think Iran".

    I disagree. Malaysia is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. One of the principles of this treaty is that we are allowed to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Hence, if we can prove to the international community so, I don't see why there should be any barriers. Germany, France and USA all use nuclear power plants.

    However, a pressing concern on nuclear would be the resource. I think we don't have supply of uranium and we need to get them from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. This might create a cost push inflation on energy costs and increase the costs of electricity tariffs.

  11. Ken

    Poi, how can it be made easier to understand? Explanations needed for the technical terms?

    Your feedback is important and welcomed. Thanks!

  12. Poi

    Good article. But must be more simple to understan please? Simple language needed