KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — Malaysia has approved a proposal to set up a nuclear power plant which will start operating from 2021, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin announced today.
It is the first country in Southeast Asia to announce a nuclear power plant, a sensitive matter in the ASEAN grouping which has always espoused a nuclear-free zone.
Malaysia now relies on a combination of fossil fuels and hydro-power to generate electricity.
Chin said his ministry has been given the go-ahead by the Economic Council to start identifying suitable sites but declined to reveal possible sites or the total power to be delivered.
He only disclosed that the nuclear plant needed to be built in an area with high power demand, which could possibly mean in any of the industrialised states in the west coast.
“Building of the first plant needs a lead time of at least 10 years.
“We need to look at the safety aspects, human resources and the location,” he said, adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had the final say on whether the plant could be built.
Technology know-how and providers may possibly come from South Korea, China, France or Japan, the minister added.
Chin stressed that a nuclear plant was sorely needed to meet the country’s accelerating energy needs and ensured its energy security, an issue that is high on the agenda of most Asian nations now living with high oil prices.
“Nuclear energy is the only viable option toward our long term energy needs.
“Our energy mix is rather unhealthy. We are depending too much on coal and oil,” he told reporters after launching the first Carbon Neutral Conference on Sustainable Buildings South East Asia.
He also said despite nuclear energy’s astronomical start-up costs, it was more cost — and energy — efficient than dotting the country with coal-fired power plants.
The government would be ready to explain to the people the need for one to counter possible political and environmental fallout or uproar, he added.