Archive for June, 2009

3 smuggled baby orangutans rescued in Malaysia

Posted on June 30, 2009. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) — A Malaysian wildlife official says authorities have rescued three smuggled orangutan babies from an ostrich breeder and a zoo.

Saharudin Anan, enforcement director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, says one orangutan confiscated from the breeder is an infant still being bottle-fed. He says the other two were at a zoo in northern Taiping town.

He says the breeder and zoo officials could face up to six years in prison if charged and convicted for holding the protected and endangered species without permits.

Saharudin says officials are not sure where the three orangutans came from — whether from a Malaysian forest or from abroad.

All orangutans held legally in Malaysia have been DNA-profiled and implanted with a microchip.

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GOLD vs HUMAN LIVES

Posted on June 29, 2009. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods, Pollution |

KUALA LUMPUR – During the Second World War, hydrogen cyanide was used in the Nazi gas chambers in the concentration camps of Auswitz and Maidanek that killed millions of people. When Germany was defeated, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, his henchmen including Himmler and Goering and mistress Eva Braun committed suicide by taking sodium cyanide.

Cyanide is so toxic and lethal to humans and the environment that many countries have either curbed its use in industrial mining or completely banned it.

Environmentalists and human rights groups across the globe lobbied against the industrial use of cyanide particularly in the mining of gold.

The contamination involving the Bong Mieu River in central Quan Nam, a province in Vietnam which was polluted by gold mining activities, is a recent infamous incident.

(more…)

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MALAYSIA CAN START SMALL WITH NUCLEAR POWER PROGRAMME

Posted on June 29, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

(Bernama) — Malaysia’s nuclear power programme can start with a small nuclear power plant as a power demonstrator reactor before larger and more cost-competitive plants are built, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry said today.

“This was the approach taken by Japan, which started with a power demonstration reactor generating only 13 megawatts of electricity from 1963 to 1982 before building 53 larger plants with capacities of between 340 and 1,300 megawatts,” said deputy minister Fadillah Yusof.

“Despite being the only country in the world that has suffered the devastating effects of nuclear radiation, nuclear energy now supplies almost 30 percent of Japan’s total electricity requirements,” Fadillah said.

He represented the minister Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili in delivering the opening keynote address at International Nuclear Conference 2009, which is being held at the Putra World Trade Centre here from today until July 1.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia was keen to emulate South Korea in developing a small-scale nuclear reactor for power generation as it was more economical.

This, he said, was because South Korea had an edge over other countries in terms of technology for small-scale nuclear reactors with 40 percent of the country’s power needs coming from various types of nuclear reactors.

Najib said the small-scale nuclear reactor was considered safe and could be built next to an urban area that needed electric power.

It could generate between 200,000 and 300,000 kilowatts of energy, he said during his first official visit to South Korea as prime minister.

Fadillah said efforts to support nuclear technology applications, especially for nuclear electricity generation, required the relevant legal framework and regulatory provisions to be further developed, including the streamlining of licensing processes involving various regulatory agencies.

“Human capital development efforts should also be enhanced through the establishment of appropriate academic and training programmes at the university level as well as professional and sub-professional levels,” he said.

International, regional and bilateral cooperation should also be expanded to support these development initiatives, he added.

Another critical component is the research and development infrastructure required to support the nuclear power programme, according to Fadillah.

For this, the infrastructure that has been developed by the Malaysian Nuclear Agency should be expanded and used by all relevant agencies, including academic institutions and industries, so as to avoid duplication of efforts, he said.

“Even though nuclear technology is not indigenous to Malaysia, the necessary capabilities can be developed, just as how the country once became the world’s leading producer of rubber and palm oil even though these commodities were not indigenous our country,” Fadillah said.

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Jong: New reactors are safe

Posted on June 28, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

-New Straits Times-

KUALA LUMPUR: The lessons of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have been learnt and technological advances since then have made nuclear plants safe.

Nuclear scientist Jong Hyun Kim claimed that nuclear reactors were so safe that if you wanted to make an aircraft as safe as a nuclear reactor, it would never fly.

“That’s how safe it is,” said Jong who is a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology’s Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering.

There have been technological improvements and innovations in nuclear reactors, as well as improved safety and security with regard to nuclear waste and proliferation.

“But it will take a long time to convince people about the safety of (producing) nuclear energy.

“If you run it (nuclear plant) for a million years, an accident happens only once.”

On the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, considered to be the worst ever nuclear power plant disaster, Jong said the reactor did not have a containment unit. The most commonly-used reactors, which are mostly American designed, have containment units.

“Chernobyl did not have it. It had what is known as a confinement unit.”

A confinement unit makes use of barriers and structures that have been specifically designed to limit the dispersion of radioactive materials within a nuclear facility.

The second reactor of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States, which suffered a partial meltdown in 1979, had the necessary containment, he said.

A steel or reinforced concrete structure enclosing a nuclear reactor is designed to, contain the escape of radiation in an emergency

On the question of nuclear waste management, Prof Datuk Dr Noramly Muslim, chairman of the Atomic Energy Licensing Board Malaysia, said the issue was not one of safety.

“The issue of nuclear waste is of a political nature.”

In reality, Noramly said nuclear waste was not waste at all.

“The waste can be recycled. It has more value than the original uranium.”

Noramly said anti-nuclear sentiment would always be around, especially among older people.

“They are thinking about Japan and what happened to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and what happened at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

“But we are moving forward with new technologies and more efficient performance and safety guarantees.

“The decision to utilise nuclear energy to generate electricity is political.

“The country’s leaders need to decide whether nuclear energy should be harnessed or not.”

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Cheaper and very much less polluting

Posted on June 28, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

– New Straits Times-

KUALA LUMPUR: As the country’s energy bill increases because of increasing demand and depleting energy resources, there is a need for alternative energy.

According to the Malaysia Energy Centre (MEC), Malaysia registered a gross electricity generation of 101,325 gigawatt hours (GWh). One gigawatt hour is equivalent to one billion watts.

The electricity consumption in 2007 was 89,298 GWh, an increase of 5.6 per cent from the previous year.

MEC said all sectors saw growth in their energy consumption in 2007.

The majority of the increase was in the industrial sector, particularly in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Oil and gas dominate energy supply in Malaysia and are expected to continue to play a dominant role in the country’s primary energy mix.

MEC said natural gas was expected to remain a dominant fuel for the power generation and industrial sectors.

Could this energy diversification policy as well as the ever increasing demand see nuclear energy being tapped as a cheap energy source for the future?

Professor Jong Hyun Kim from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology believes that nuclear energy is the cheapest alternative energy available.

Citing figures from the Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco), Jong said 140 terrawatt hours (TWh) of nuclear-generated electricity cost only RM1.77 billion while it cost coal-fired plants RM106 billion and liquefied natural gas-powered plants RM1.3 trillion to produce the same amount of energy.

“You can see the difference immediately from the numbers.”

One TWh is equivalent to one trillion watt hours. One watt-hour is equivalent to 3,600 joules.

Jong said the initial capital cost of building a nuclear power plant was high and usually in the region of RM1.8 billion.

“Usually after 20 or 30 years you pay off the debt (of the initial construction).”

In advocating nuclear energy, Jong said it was both cheap and environment friendly in terms of CO2 emission, compared with fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas.

He said there would only be CO2 emission in the initial construction phase of the nuclear plant.

“Once it starts operations there will be no emission.

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‘We have expertise to go nuclear’

Posted on June 28, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

– New Straits Times-

Atomic Energy Licensing Board chairman Prof Datuk Dr Noramly Muslim
Atomic Energy Licensing Board chairman Prof Datuk Dr Noramly Muslim

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has the expertise to build its own nuclear power plant and earlier than scheduled.

Atomic Energy Licensing Board chairman Prof Datuk Dr Noramly Muslim said the country had around 80 PhD holders with expertise in nuclear engineering technology.

“Some of these people who are nuclear trained are now chief executive officers in banks and big companies.

“This is because we have put our (nuclear) programme on the back burner.”

Noramly said only about 10 to 15 per cent of this expertise was required to operate a nuclear plant.
Prof Jong Hyun Kim, of the Nuclear and Quantum Engineering Department at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, said while it took his country some 20 years to build a nuclear power plant, Malaysia would need only half of that time.

According to Jong, Korea had only three nuclear scientists with PhDs when it embarked on building its first nuclear power plant but Malaysia today has so much more expertise and better technology and newer processes.

Jong said Malaysia should seriously look into tapping nuclear energy as a source of electricity in the long run.

Tenaga Nasional Berhad had announced earlier in the week that it would start its nuclear power plant by 2025, once it got the green light from the government.

Its nuclear energy head, Dr Mohd Zamzam Jaafar, said the country needed to prepare for a nuclear future because of volatile prices and limited energy resources.

Thirty countries operate over 400 nuclear power plants.

The US has 104 nuclear reactors which produced 19.4 per cent of its electricity supply, while Europe had 196 which produced 30 per cent of its electricity.

In Asia, Japan operates 63 reactor plants producing 34.5 per cent of its electricity needs, South Korea operates 20 reactors producing 35 per cent of its electricity needs, and China operates 11 reactors producing two per cent of its electricity.

By 2030, Jong said Korea was looking at increasing its nuclear reactors to 41 to be able to generate up to 59 per cent of its electricity.

“So, at that time nuclear power will dominate. Right now coal is the dominant energy source.”

Noramly said Malaysia generated 60 per cent of its electricity from gas, with the rest from petroleum, hydropower and other sources.

Jong said Vietnam and Thailand had indicated that they were seriously looking into building nuclear power plants.

“In fact Vietnam has approached us (at the institute) for help. At a recent Beijing conference, 60 countries expressed interest in going for nuclear power.”

Noramly said European countries such as Britain and Italy which wanted to decommission their nuclear power plants were reviewing their decisions.

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CrossTalk: Is nuclear energy the answer?

Posted on June 27, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

-New Straits Times-

Fresh nuclear debate was stirred earlier this month when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced in South Korea that Malaysia would be developing a reactor. Dr Nahrul Khair Alang Mohd Rashid, president of the Malaysian Nuclear Society, and Dr Ronald McCoy, president of the Physicians for Peace and Social Responsibility, pitch their views with ARMAN AHMAD sitting in.

POTENTIAL PROLIFERATOR
Nahrul: Depending on what you use it for, nuclear technology can be good (or bad). If you use it for peaceful purposes, then I am all for it. If it is for making weapons, missiles and other things, then this is the wrong use for it.

There is concern now over the proliferation of fuel from nuclear reactors to weapons. But there are certain technologies that make it impossible or very difficult for it to happen.

McCoy: As long as you have nuclear energy in a country, that country is a potential proliferator of nuclear weapons. There are so many examples, among them North Korea.

It is so difficult to control it. You can hide things.

As far as Malaysia is concerned, I am pretty confident that the country is not going for nuclear weapons because it has been so vocal about nuclear disarmament for many, many years. That is not going to change.

My only concern is with nuclear energy itself and all the hazards associated, environmental and health, and the cost involved.

Today with climate change, nuclear energy is not the answer.

Renewable sources of energy, changing lifestyle and sustainable development is part of the answer as well as energy efficiency and energy conservation.

These are all the different factors that go into the question of how we resolve climate change and global warming.

Nahrul: I agree on the more prudent use of energy, better efficiency and so on.

But with our energy needs, we see that at current technology levels there are not many possibilities of having sustainable energy without a good combination of nuclear and the rest.

McCoy: I agree about having an energy mix. But nuclear energy doesn’t come into the picture at all.

It is not a clean source of energy. That is a terrible, terrible fallacy.

Nahrul: But if we look at it in its entirety, there is no such thing as clean energy. In a way, there is some level of polluting factor in there although we think it is clean.

The only question is how polluting it is and how much it affects the environment.

Take hydroelectric power for example, we may not think of it as polluting when it is running, but when we build it, we cut down forests.

NUCLEAR WASTE

McCoy: It is all relative. But my single greatest objection to the use of nuclear energy is what do we do to dispose of radioactive waste, which lasts for thousands and thousands of years.

Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years! What is that? 240 centuries! 24 millennia!

If prehistoric man started out with nuclear energy, today if we were still alive we would still be managing his waste. We are talking about radioactive waste forever.

Nahrul: But that is what makes plutonium very valuable today. The long half-life.

Now they are closing the loop. Plutonium can be used as a fuel for another type of nuclear reactor.

So that means we are more or less having an endless source of power supply.

That is why nuclear is getting more and more beautiful.

McCoy: That is very debatable.

Nahrul: (laughs) That is why we are here, right?

McCoy: My greatest concern is the disposal of radioactive waste.

Secondly, there are so many fallacies about the cost of nuclear energy. Nobody can say it is cheap. One of the problems about nuclear economics is that so much of the facts are hidden. This is one of the problems of industry.

When you want to sell a product, you say it is cheap. That is the way corporations and industries work.

Recently, in the International Herald Tribute there was this talk about what is happening in Finland. (After four years of construction and thousands of defects, the reactor’s E3 billion (RM14.9 billion) price tag has increased at least 50 per cent.)

It is happening throughout the world. It is a very, very expensive form of energy.

Nahrul: You cannot generalise that because one or two countries say it is expensive, the rest will be expensive too.

You have to look at the local context too.

Secondly, look at how many reactors are now operating, and the companies are not going bankrupt.

But if you compare in terms of cost, with time even the renewable forms of energy will be expensive too because of the technology needed to overcome the technological challenges.

For example clean coal. Even though you have clean coal you still have to stock coal. You have to burn coal all time to create energy. Imagine how much is needed, this is not including transportation.

McCoy: I am not saying coal is cleaner than nuclear. But I am saying that electric power produced by nuclear reactors is clean in inverted commas.

But the whole nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining onwards generates a lot of CO2 emissions. It is not entirely free of CO2 emmisions.

You also have to look at the cost of managing nuclear waste.

CHERNOBYL

You have also to think about the possibility of a nuclear accident. Look at Chernobyl (1986 nuclear reactor accident in Ukraine).

Most of the (nuclear reactor) accidents are caused by human error.

Malaysia has a very bad reputation for maintenance. There is no maintenance culture.

So, one Chernobyl disaster will wipe out this country with radioactivity.

Nahrul: But I don’t think that is the right way. Just because…

McCoy: Why are you saying that? You know Murphy’s Law — If anything can go wrong, one day it will go wrong. Can you imagine a Chernobyl in Malaysia?

Nahrul: I will not imagine that yet, because there are more than 400 nuclear reactors in the world and since Chernobyl there hasn’t been an accident on that scale.

McCoy: Until tomorrow, when we have an accident, then your theory is finished.

Nahrul: So far, we have only been waiting for that tomorrow.

If you are talking about culture. Actually sometimes culture can evolve with technology.

If you don’t have technology, then you will not have a quality culture, because you don’t have a need to handle sophisticated equipment.

I think we are really pressed for alternatives for energy because with the depletion of fossil fuel, we will not have the energy we need.

Of course, we can reduce the pressure or the demand for energy through prudent use and becoming more efficient.

McCoy: If you want to take so many risks for nuclear energy, I would agree with you if you had no alternatives. But we have safer alternatives.

We must put our money into research and development of renewable sources of energy. If we put our money in nuclear energy, we will deprive ourselves.

Nahrul: Even with renewable sources of energy it will not be enough. It must be a good mix between all sort of energy.

McCoy: I feel it must be a mix too, but I don’t think nuclear energy should be part of this mix.

Nahrul: Technology is moving. What was waste before is no longer waste now. Say for example plutonium and all other wastes.

The spent fuel is being reprocessed and made as a fuel for a new type of reactor. The waste will be very minimal.

McCoy: But when is it coming? If we put our money into nuclear technology, then 20 years down the line, we might discover that no such thing exists.

Nahrul: They are not throwing the waste. Remember the Yucca mountain site?

(US president) Bush created it as a disposal site. Obama is opening it up because the waste can now be used as a fuel for a new source of energy.

EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY

So what we thought before was waste is now actually a resource. It was waste only because we did not know how to make use of it. Technology is evolving.

McCoy: But this is still to be proven isn’t it?

Nahrul: Yes. But renewable energies are also yet to be proven. There is no city in the world that is powered by solar energy, for example.

McCoy: It has to be a mix, biofuel, biomass. I hope in the future, we will develop renewable sources of energy, and a culture of efficiency and conversation.

And I think we also have to come to terms with the fact that we must have a limit to economic growth. This world talks about economic growth for what? Where do the profits go to?

Does it go to poor people on the ground? No, it goes into these deep, deep pockets of very rich people.

There has to be a limit, and development must be sustainable. We are using natural resources to the point where we are now in a very serious position as far as climate change is concerned.

Nahrul: If you are talking about renewable sources of energy, there is the example of solar energy. The sun can produce what is called thermal inversion due to the heating due to the refraction of the light around the solar panel. That also must be studied.

McCoy: There is a lot we don’t know about renewable energies because we haven’t spent money or time on research.

If we put our money in nuclear, then we will be depriving money we could put into research for renewable sources of energy. There are manya lot of countries in the world that don’t use nuclear energy.

Nahrul: But those countries today that don’t use nuclear power, take electricity from neighbouring countries that produce nuclear power.

McCoy: Yes. Like parts of Europe. From Russia.

Nahrul: So there is no need for them to have nuclear power plants.

These countries in Europe are small. There is no need for them to have nuclear plants, they just buy the power. It is cheaper this way.

Currently there are about 440 nuclear power plants in the world.

McCoy: There are no guarantees for the safety of a nuclear power plant.

Nahrul: We don’t look at the stadium that collapsed in Kuala Terengganu (a year after it was built). We look at Kuala Lumpur City Centre, the Petronas Twin Towers or the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

McCoy: But you must also look at the possibility of a dis aster occurring.

Nahrul: When we look at the negative, sometimes we feel that we are not good enough.

(Dr Mahathir, a strong believer in Malaysia Boleh, recently said tak boleh when it came to a nuclear reactor)

Nahrul: (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) surprised me too. When he visited the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, some years ago he said the use of nuclear technology for other things was ok.

But for electricity, maybe not. We have a small reactor in Bangi. It’s a one-megawatt reactor. It’s been running fine. I was the manager for 30 years. But of course it’s too small to have a meltdown.

McCoy: He has never been in favour. We’ve talked about this in the last few years, and I have always known that he was very much opposed to nuclear energy.

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Negri turns down RM8bil investment

Posted on June 26, 2009. Filed under: Pollution |

-The Star-

NILAI: The state government has rejected an RM8bil investment from a company based in the Middle East to set up a petrochemical plant in Port Dickson.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the state authorities had decided not to accept the investment as it was a potential environment hazard.

“We want to preserve our mangroves and our pristine beaches. We do not want to be spending a lot more money later to rehabilitate our beaches which are the best south of Kuala Lumpur,” he told reporters at the soft launch of the RM60mil Nilai Springs Resort Hotel here.

Mohamad looking at a section of the lunch buffet after opening the Nilai Springs Resort Hotel while Gan looks on

Mohamad said the state government also rejected the bid as the site chosen by the company was a forest reserve.

He said the state government would not allow such projects along the coastline.

“No structures should be built on the sea as these could also have an adverse impact on the environment,” he said.

On a separate matter, Mohamad said an American company would build a RM400mil manufacturing plant in Bandar Enstek.

“They have signed a land purchase agreement with us and earth works are expected to start soon,” he said, without revealing the name of the company.

It would employ up to 750 workers when in full operation.

Mohamad said an international school would also be built in Nilai next year to cater to the needs of the expatriate community living in the state. “Most of these expatriates, particularly South Koreans and Japanese, are forced to live in Kuala Lumpur because we do not have an international school here.”

Mohamad also congratulated Tan Sri Gan Kong Seng, the chairman of PK Resources and owner of the four-star Nilai Springs Resort Hotel for having the foresight to build the 183-room hotel here.

“This is a strategic location and its proximity to the KLIA, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and the Formula 1 circuit certainly gives it an advantage over others,” he added.

———————–

I applaud the decision by Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar in rejecting an RM8bil investment to set up a petrochemical plant in Port Dickson (The Star, June 26).

The decision was prudent because the trade-off for the loss of economic revenues and job opportunities generated by tourism industries along the Port Dickson coast is unlikely to be compensated by the petrochemical plant. A more important concern is that of the health and safety of the local residents and environment.

Petrochemical is a heavy industry that produces chemical products derived from petroleum. In the process, toxic chemicals such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, sulphur dioxide – among many other pollutants – are released into the air, river and sea. Some of the prominent petrochemical plants in Malaysia are located in Kertih, Labuan, Pasir Gudang, Port Dickson and Miri.

In the last couple of years, more petrochemical plants have been proposed throughout the country. Some of them, like the one in Sungai Pulai, Johor, have sadly been earmarked in an environmentally sensitive area that has one of the most productive mangrove ecosystems in the country.

If we sum up the values of the ecosystem services derived from the mangrove forest in terms of water purification, oxygen production, fisheries productivity, endangered species conservation, tourism and flood prevention for the next 100 years, the value would dwarf revenues generated by a petrochemical plant occupying the same acreage of land.

One day, when the world runs out of fuel and when critical ecosystems are depleted or no longer functional, what kind of environment will our future generations have to bear? Aren’t we supposed to be more actively engaging and exploring an alternative, clean source of energy now?

On a different note, there are numerous scientific evidence documenting the development of leukaemia and various types of cancers among residents living close to petrochemical sites.

In developed countries like Canada and Taiwan, there are strict guidelines that require petrochemical plants to be located at least 3km away from the nearest residential area. But in our country, according to the standard established by the Department of Environment, the minimal distance is set for only 500m. Has the safety issue been overlooked?

Our political leaders should follow the footsteps of the Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar who has avoided the pitfalls of sacrificing the environment for short-term economic gains. They need the foresight to make decisions that will leave positive impacts beyond their political horizons.

CHOO CHEE KUANG,
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu.

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Sabah and Sarawak can go big in rubber plantations

Posted on June 25, 2009. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah and Sarawak have the potential to be major players in domestic rubber plantations due to the availability of large tracts of land suitable for commercial agriculture, a senior official from the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) said.

“The additional new planting of 25,000ha in Sabah and 5,000ha in Sarawak by government agencies under the Ninth Malaysia Plan will enable an additional production of 35,000 tonnes (of rubber) a year by next year,” said Dariman Darham, the Sabah regional office director of MRB.

Of a total of 41.2 million ha of commercial agriculture land in East Malaysia, about 1.9 million ha are ideal for the cultivation of rubber trees.

Sarawak has about 1.5 million ha and Sabah about 400,000ha available for rubber cultivation, Dariman said at MRB’s National Rubber Economic Conference 2009 held here yesterday.

Sabah and Sarawak currently produced 101,000 tonnes of natural rubber with almost 99% of it in Standard Malaysian Rubber (SMR) grade. By 2010, East Malaysia is expected to produce about 136,000 tonnes of rubber annually, according to Dariman.

In 2008, Malaysia’s total natural rubber production slowed to 1.13 million tonnes from 1.20 million tonnes in 2007.

Meanwhile, Forest Plantation Development Sdn Bhd (FPDSB) chief executive officer Zaini Ithnin A Razak said the management of sustainable forest plantation was essential to overcome the declining hectarage of native forest and wood supply.

Rubber smallholders and estates have been providing wood for downstream processing industries, helping to overcome a shortage in wood supply. Rubberwood is an important raw material for the manufacturing of wood-based furniture, medium-density fibreboard, plywood, particle board and wood floorings.

However, Zaini said due to low latex prices and the conversion of rubber land to oil palm estates, the supply of rubber wood was gradually diminishing.

FPDSB, a subsidiary of the Malaysian Timber Board, was set up to promote sustainable rubber plantations and forest tree plantations among the private sector, government linked companies and agencies as well as smallholders.

It has an annual target of 25,000ha of such plantations for 15 years.

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Go for solar power, not nuclear energy

Posted on June 25, 2009. Filed under: Energy |

I READ with utmost concern of TNB’s plan to implement the first nuclear plant by 2025, as reported in the Star on June 23. My immediate question is, has TNB made any detailed study on the viability of solar energy before deciding on nuclear power plant (NPP)?

For TNB to invest RM6.9 billion to build a 1,000 MW station is way too expensive. Let us be mindful that this is already the cheapest option if the Chinese design is used. It will cost even more (RM13.9 billion) if the US design is used. The move will certainly add financial strain to the already cash–strap TNB, and what is even more worrying is putting public safety at a high risk due to possible nuclear fallout should an accident happen.

The cost mentioned does not even include other costs in running the NPP, such as the disposal of nuclear fuel and other hidden costs associated with the safety and security of its plant. Malaysia is just a small country, and any nuclear fallout would certainly affect almost the entire population of Asean countries.

On the contrary, studies made by Pusat Tenaga Malaysia (PTM) and its IEA international consultant have shown that solar Photovoltaic offers a more viable and environmentally friendly option.

It is estimated that 6,500 MW power can be generated by using only 40% of nation’s house-roof tops (2.5 million houses) and 5% of commercial buildings alone. The cost of solar PV system is continuing to decrease and solar energy experts have forecasted that grid parity is expected to be reached by 2015, which means the cost of electricity generated by solar PV is competitive with the cost of electricity generated from conventional energy resources such as gas, coal, oil and nuclear.

Malaysia is not only blessed with plenty of solar energy but we are also endowed with huge reserves of sand – some of which can be used as basic raw material to make solar cells. Already a huge silicon ingot-making factory is being planned to be set up in Sarawak.

Thus, Malaysia has all the basic ingredients to use this huge potential of solar energy for future electricity needs. From China to Europe and across America, utility companies and governments are focusing more towards increasing renewable energy contributions to its energy mix, but TNB is doing otherwise.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is considering several applications from private investors to build several hundreds of MW of solar PV power plants to meet the ever increasing energy needs in the country.

Obviously, opting for nuclear power station is going to be a financial nightmare not only to TNB but to the taxpayer’s money as well. From the point of national security, nuclear power plant poses even greater risk not only due to possible accident but it is also an easy target for terrorist attack. The risks are just overwhelming.

The way forward for Malaysia now is to go in big way for solar power, not nuclear.

AHMAD SHADZLI ABDUL WAHAB,

Director, Global Renewable Energy Network (GREEN),

Bangi, Selangor.

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