It’s the only way to get cheaper electricity

Posted on July 3, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

Nuclear  Malaysia is planning for a bigger reactor and is training more personnel  for this purpose.

Nuclear Malaysia is planning for a bigger reactor and is training more personnel for this purpose.

-NewStraitsTimes- Many quarters are against the proposal to build a nuclear power plant in Malaysia. The authorities feel it is due to misconception and negative perception on the idea of nuclear energy itself. NOOR HAZWAN HARIZ MOHD, MAIZATUL RANAI and SEAN AUGUSTIN report.

STATISTICS from the European Nuclear Society show that there are 437 nuclear power plants in operation in 30 countries with an installed electric net capacity of about 371 gigawatts (GW).

Fifty-five plants with an installed capacity of 51GW are under construction in 15 countries.
Malaysian Nuclear Agency (Nuclear Malaysia) deputy director-general (technical) Dr Muhd Noor Muhd Yunus pointed out that Japan alone, a country which suffered heavily from atomic bombing in World War 2 in the 1940s, has more than 50 nuclear power plants.

“If it was unsafe, would they build that many?” he asked.

Noor believes that concerns were more on the safety and security of having a nuclear reactor here.
He said the Chernobyl incident in 1986 should not be used as a yardstick as that nuclear reactor was not built to standards.

“Chernobyl was like a helmet without Sirim certification,” he said. The incident was due to leakage which melted the metals in the reactor.

Noor said there was the need for the country to have a nuclear power plant as petroleum and natural gas resources will be depleted by 2019.
“Although the starting cost to build the plant will be very high, its operation, maintenance and fuel costs will save our country a lot of money.

“Unlike coal and gas-fuelled plants, the cost of running a nuclear plant is not determined much by the cost of its fuel.

“A gas-fuelled plant operation cost depends as much as 70 per cent on the cost of gas but a nuclear plant depends only about 10 to 15 per cent.”

He said the country should have a nuclear power plant as the economy depended very much on the cost of electricity.

“If we want to attain a developed country status, we should have a power plant that generates electricity at a lower cost. Foreign investors will look at our electricity charges before deciding to have businesses here.”

Noor gave the assurance that the country already had the basic expertise to handle such a plant.

“Nuclear Malaysia already has a small reactor in Bangi which generates about one megawatt of electricity.

We have trained many personnel from time to time. We are now going to train more to prepare for a bigger reactor.

“We have also identified several possible sites which meet the criteria. The plant will also be a smaller one compared with a hydro-electric or a coal power plant.”

Noor said the biggest difference between a nuclear reactor and a nuclear bomb is the rate at which energy is released.

In a nuclear reactor, energy is released at a controllable rate. In a nuclear weapon, energy is released at a very high and uncontrollable rate.

“The fuel used, Uranium-235, can be mined in the country. However, it will only have about 0.7 per cent composition and is not sufficiently enriched to be used as fuel.

“This is where the enrichment process is needed until it reaches four per cent composition.

“Only then will it be enough to generate electricity. However, we are not going to do the enrichment process as the uranium we plan to import will be ready-made with four per cent composition, and can be used directly by the reactor,” he said.

Malaysian involvement with nuclear energy can be traced to as far back as 1972 when the government formed the Centre of Application of Nuclear Malaysia.

It was formed to introduce and promote the application of nuclear science and technology for national development.

It then formally changed its name to Tun Ismail Atomic Research Centre (Puspati).

In 1983, Puspati was placed under the Prime Minister’s Department and was called Nuclear Energy Unit (UTN).

It was then placed under Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment in 1990.

In 1994, its name was changed to Malaysian Institute for Nuclear Technology Research (Mint).

In 2006, following its restructuring, Mint was given a new identity, Malaysian Nuclear Agency.

Read more: SPOTLIGHT/NUCLEAR ENERGY: It’s the only way to get cheaper electricity

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