Malaysian government hoodwinking the public on nuclear energy

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) read with utmost concern the announcement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Mah Siew Kiong on the government’s insistence to pursue nuclear power generation as a future energy source for the country.

Last week, Dato’ Mah revealed at a forum organized by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Bill will be tabled “by this year”, paving the way for the development of nuclear energy.

It is therefore, disingenuous, on the part of Minister Mah to claim that he was attending the forum “to look at the angle on whether we really want to go nuclear or do we not go nuclear” and that the government is still conducting a study on the need for nuclear energy and is interested in a genuine debate.

It is not surprising that Dato’ Mah engaged in such doublespeak as that has regrettably been the typical approach of the government to hoodwink the public since it announced its plan to adopt nuclear energy in 2008.

The arguments of dwindling natural gas reserves and an energy future dominated by reliance on global-warming coal power plants have been used to justify the advent of nuclear power generation.

While we acknowledge the challenges faced by Malaysia posed by its current energy mix, we would like to remind Dato’ Mah that civil society organizations had provided valid counter-arguments to these justifications. We had submitted a memorandum in 2011 detailing our opposition to nuclear power generation and suggestions for energy reform that will enable Malaysia to not go down the nuclear pathway, which is being abandoned by other countries that are facing similar challenges of fossil-fuel scarcity and the need to address climate change.

In that sense, we disagree with Dato’ Mah that the Malaysian public engaging in the so-called nuclear debate consists of merely the three categories that he had listed i.e. “those who are vocally for it, those who know absolutely nothing about it or those who believe in it as long as it is not in their backyards”.

There is a fourth group i.e. those who oppose nuclear energy, that had engaged the government but is sadly being dismissed because the group’s position is perceived as untenable to the government’s nuclear policy which is listed as one of the entry-point projects of the Economic Transformation Programme.

We, however, agree with Dato’ Mah that the decision to adopt nuclear energy “is a very important one and we must get it right first”.

Getting it right means listening with an open mind and consulting all interested parties in a genuine manner.

In July 2012, we learnt that the government had advanced its plan where a detailed timeline of nuclear power deployment was developed, indicating that the final site selection will be made in 2014, marking this as the POINT OF NO RETURN.

In the interests of transparency and accountability, we urge Dato’ Mah to publicly disclose the study (known as the Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development Programme) that the government has been purportedly conducting since 2010 and originally scheduled for completion in 2013.

We believe that the introduction of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Bill marks a major milestone of the government’s plan while it continues to mislead and withhold information from the public.

As civil society organizations, CAP and SAM will be left with no choice but to launch a peoples’ campaign against this immoral and destructive nuclear energy development plan.

Letter to the Press, 12 August 2014