‘Govt may delay nuclear plans’

Posted on March 30, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

-The Borneo Post-

MONUMENTAL: Workers carry out final stages of work on the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam near Belaga. Deemed as the largest dam in Asia, the dam is slated to be fully operational by the end of next year, with a capacity to generate approximately 2,400MW of hydroelectricity power. – Bernama photo

KUCHING: The nation’s plan to build nuclear plants here was likely to be delayed, following protests from various organisations against the programme, especially after the recent nuclear disaster in Japan.

Under the ambitious Government Transformation Programme (GTP), Malaysia was envisioned to have two nuclear power plants with a 1,000-megawatt (MW) capacity each, with the first plant slated for operations in 2021 and the second one a year later.

“Apart from the possible delay, the government is also unlikely to go ahead with unpopular programmes ahead of the upcoming election,” HwangDBS Vickers Research Sdn Bhd’s analyst June Ng observed in an e-mail note yesterday.

Specifically, the analyst believed that plans for the nuclear power plants would not be pushed through as more time would be needed to review potential safety issues.

In December last year, the government announced plans to build two nuclear power plants as part of an overall long-term plan to balance energy fuel mix.

The move towards nuclear power was earlier made in view of the nation’s declining oil reserve and rising fuel costs, of which national power company Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) had not been able to pass through to users due to inflationary concern.

“While construction cost for nuclear plant is likely to be four times higher than coal- and gas-fired power plants, nuclear plants can provide access to cheap, reliable and clean energy that does not produce greenhouse gases that cause global warming and climate change,” remarked Ng.

Notably, the move to have these nuclear plants could also have stemmed from the confirmation that power from the Bakun hydroelectric station here would not come to Peninsular Malaysia.

It was estimated that by the time all eight turbines at the colossal Bakun Dam had become fully commissioned by the end of next year, it should be able to generate approximately 2,400MW of hydroelectricity power.

With regards to the nuclear programme, TNB was already working closely with the Malaysian Nuclear Agency and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board for the basis on potential nuclear power development in the country.

Given the delay in the proposed nuclear plants, Ng opined that the government might ramp up its effort to ensure adequate investment in coal- and gas-fired power plants would meet the country’s power need – currently estimated to grow at four per cent per annum over the next five years – in line with the nation’s projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate.

“The new power plants are crucial to address the declining reserve margin in Malaysia, which is currently at 40 per cent but will decline to 20 per cent come year 2015, based on estimated average power demand growth of three per cent per annum,” Ng pointed out.

Mirroring this, TNB is now developing a new 1,000MW coal-fired power plant on its existing power plant site in Manjung Perak, while another 1,000MW new coal plant will be awarded to either MMC Corp Bhd or Jimah Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd over the next two to three months, noted Ng.

Additionally, the analyst also viewed that new liquefired natural gas (LNG) facilities in Sabah and Melaka should ease gas supply constraints in Peninsular Malaysia; at the same time, allowing for the possible extension of first generation power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Nearer to home, Dialog Group Bhd and its consortium partners clinched a RM1.6-billion engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) contract from Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd for the Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline (SSGP) project.

The project would involved a 512-kilometre, 36-inch diameter onshore natural gas pipeline and associated facilities from the proposed Sabah oil and gas terminal (SOGT) in Kimanis, Sabah to Petronas LNG complex in Bintulu – running about 90 kilometres in Sabah, and 422 kilometres in Sarawak.

Ng noted that as EPCC work would be reaching completion soon, the SOGT should be able to bring new gas supply from next year onwards.

“There will be additional gas supply for Sabah upon completion of this project. Furthermore, TNB and Petronas Gas Bhd (PetGas) are considering using piped natural gas or LNG for a proposed 300MW power plant in Sabah, after both federal and Sabah state governments scrapped a plan to build a coal-fired power plant,” added the analyst.

Across the South China Sea, PetGas is currently developing LNG facilities and services in the vicinity of Sungai Udang Port, Melaka where the re-gasification plant will have a maximum capacity of 3.8 million tonnes per annum upon completion by July next year.

Owned and operated by PetGas, the RM1.08-billion plant construction contract was awarded to a consortium comprising Perunding Ranhill Worley Sdn Bhd (70 per cent) and Muhibbah Engineering Bhd (50 per cent) in January this year.


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