Science has yet to find ways to manage its waste to prevent cataclysmic outcomes, says PM
By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By BLOOMBERG
Malaysia will have to figure out a substantial and safe way to dispose of nuclear waste if the country were to opt for nuclear energy to generate electricity.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S Piarapakaran, who supports Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to not rely on nuclear energy for the country’s power generation, said the biggest issue would be the containment of energy from leaking.
The government would also have to determine the cost that would be incurred, apart from finding methods to manage such a project successfully.
“A worst-case scenario we’re looking at is leakage in a case of nuclear exposure that could cause various types of cancer to develop rapidly ending in death, or a more severe and long-term outcome, which is severe genetic inflammation that causes mutation,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a telephone inter- view yesterday.
Piarapakaran said mutation as a result of nuclear radiation is also a serious issue as it could last for generations. “In some cases, babies are born with organs outside of their bodies. They are sick all their lives and cannot develop normally,” Piarapakaran said, adding that the cost of management will only increase over the years.
“Waste management is becoming more expensive and we won’t know the exact cost 30 or 40 years from now,” he said.
The PM’s call for the country to not rely on nuclear power was announced at the launch of the Conference of the Electric Power Supply Industry 2018 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre earlier this week.
Dr Mahathir said science has yet to find ways to manage its waste to prevent cataclysmic outcomes, like what had happened in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
He added that the country can continue burning fuel, coal and other resources to generate electricity.
According to Piarapakaran, even if the country does dump the nuclear waste into the sea, it could affect more than just the wildlife living there.
“Malaysia exports fish and seafood to other countries and has worked hard to promote the nation’s agricultural industries. Dumping waste into the sea will contaminate all of it and cause exports to fall, impacting the economy badly.
“There is no long-term solution here and I can say we are not ready. More-over, I feel our agencies are not capable as of yet. There is no regulation in place to serve as a guideline,” he said.
Contrary to popular notions that nuclear energy is cheaper, Piarapakaran said he has not seen such evidence to back that up.
As for the shutting down of Malaysia Nuclear Power Corp (MNPC), Piarapakaran said the documents and reports on the closure should be made public, so that other people in the field can see them before the outfit is completely cancelled.
“I think it is a good move to shut it down. The agency should have come up with research reports and held public consultations in the past, but I have not seen anything yet,” he said.
Meanwhile, RHB Research Institute Sdn Bhd analyst equity research Lim Sin Kiat said the move to say no to nuclear power is just, according to safety and cost concerns.
“There is no guarantee, even in Japan, as witnessed during the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. Nuclear waste management could pose long-term risks to public health,” he said in an email reply to TMR’s query.
Lim added that waste management requires a high level of technical expertise and may incur a long-term financial cost for the country.
Lim said MNPC at this juncture is merely an organisation that is focused on research, aimed at developing knowledge of nuclear power plants for the future.
However, he said the shutting down of the agency is unnecessary despite the government’s decision to rule nuclear power as an energy source.
He added that the study on nuclear-related technology could be of great use in the long run.
Former utilities, oil and gas analyst Low Jian Wu conceded that the country does not have the experience or expertise to handle nuclear as a source of energy yet.
He added that reserve margins are already expected to stay at a healthy level of about 30% in the foreseeable future.
“The present value of total cost of building and operating a power plant for nuclear energy is still higher than that of gas and coal plants,” Low said.
“Until the world develops further breakthrough in the implementation of nuclear energy, I believe that it can be put on hold for the moment,” he said.
However, Low added that the country must be prepared to get into the discussion again if there is any breakthrough.