Malaysians should reject undemocratic and authoritarian nuclear energy plan

At the recent public forum organised by the Bar Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) in Kuala Lumpur, the public got a glimpse of the idea of public consultation of the proponents of nuclear power plant in Malaysia.

In a rare appearance in a public forum organised by concerned groups in recent years, Malaysian Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC) CEO Dr Mohd Zamzam Jaafar revealed that the need for public consultation will be fulfilled via the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.

It has to be made clear that under the Environmental Quality Act, public consultation is provided for projects required to submit a Detailed EIA (DEIA). In this instance, the MNPC is completely ignoring the public outcry for public consultation on the needs for adopting nuclear energy or it is deliberately trying to confuse the public on the issue of public consultation.

Many concerned citizen groups had voiced their objections to the project and demanded a genuine public consultation on whether Malaysia should go down the path of adopting nuclear energy as a power source and not consultation at the stage when the ground has been laid to install the nuclear reactors.

The appalling remark of MNPC’s Dr Zamzam once again confirmed the Consumer’ Association of Penang’s (CAP) and the larger Malaysian public long-held suspicion of the government’s intention to bulldoze the multi-billion ringgit project that carries serious multiple risks without a care to legitimate public concerns.

Last Saturday’s forum revealed that MNPC which is the entity mandated by the government to spearhead the project has no interest in providing the space for critical assessment of the needs to adopt nuclear energy.

Another revealing thinking of the nuclear power proponents surrounds the idea of ‘public acceptance’. It appeared that the MNPC has already begun to dispense its absurd justification with the narrative that Malaysians would have to live with radiation risks anyway as many of our neighbouring countries are adopting nuclear power.

In fact, it is amply clear that with the setting up of the MNPC in January 2011 and the inclusion of nuclear energy as the 11th entry point project in the Economic Transformation Programme in 2010, the government is hell-bent on introducing nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix.

In early August 2014, the government announced its intention to table the Atomic Energy Regulatory Bill. Dr Zamzam said the MNPC is hopeful that the bill will be approved by Parliament this year.

We reiterate that, it is therefore, disingenuous of the government to continue misleading the public with its standard response line that a decision has yet to be made and the government is still exploring the option to go nuclear.

At the forum, the Bar Council’s ECCC concluded that the government’s approach thus far is flawed and urged the government to halt its process pending a genuine public assessment and consultation of the project. We support the Bar Council’s suggestion.

Once again, we challenge the government to come clean in admitting that a firm decision has in fact been made.

Without genuine public consultation on adopting nuclear energy, CAP called upon the Malaysian public to denounce the soon-to-be-completed Malaysian Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development Plan as an undemocratic and authoritarian plan.

Press statement, 30 Jan 2015