Malaysia’s nuclear project definitely on but why are the feasibility studies, EIA & RIA not made public?

We refer to the news item in which the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was quoted as saying ‘There may come a time when we may have to turn to nuclear power. But the government hasn’t decided on that yet’ (‘Nuclear Power “an option” ’, NST 27 March 2012 p3).

This appears to contradict the government’s clearly stated aim of ‘Deploying Nuclear Energy for Power Generation’ which is one of the Entry Point Projects (EPPII) in the Economic Transformation Programme Report (25 October 2010). The proposed plan is for two nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 2 gigawatts, with the first unit in operation by 2021.

Recently on 23 February, a Malaysian delegation from TNB and UKM professors visited Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Texas, as part of their trip to the USA to collect information for preparing a workforce to operate a nuclear power plant.

UNITEN students have been producing pro-nuclear blogs as part of their class projects, conducting statistically-dubious, non-representative online surveys supposedly showing Malaysians are mainly pro-nuclear.

At a recent Forum on 16 February 2012 on ‘Nuclear Energy as an Option for Malaysia’ in Kuala Lumpur, several presentations were made, including by the Malaysia Nuclear Power Consortium (MNPC, an entity under the PM’s Department), and TenagaNasional (TNB).

The Forum was jointly organised by the Institute of Diplomacy & Foreign Relations; the UN Association Malaysia; Association of Former Malaysian Ambassadors & the Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Both the MNPC and TNB presented the development of the proposed nuclear plant projects which showed that they are at quite an advanced stage – the Feasibility Studies reports as well as Site Selection and EIA and RIA reports have been completed.

In that February Forum, the MNPC made a presentation entitled  ‘Making Nuclear power Energy a Valid Option in Malaysia: Pre-Project Activities Spearheaded by MNPC’where it repeated its flawed claims that nuclear energy is clean by supposedly reducing GHGs (greenhouse gases) emissions and thus a global warming solution, as well as a source of cheap fuel. However, these claims are scientifically and economically refuted by latest research and data presented by international scientists at the same Forum.

According to the MNPC presentation, ‘…. a Nuclear Power Development Steering Committee headed by the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water was set up in June 2009 to plan and coordinate the preparatory efforts towards deploying nuclear energy…. . The committee has been tasked to conduct various studies towards preparing the Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development Plan (NPIDP) … targeted to be ready by 2013.  ….a nuclear power pre-feasibility study and initial site selection study has already been undertaken’.

The MNPC further stated that the ‘TNB-KEPCO Nuclear Pre-FS project was completed in June 2010 ……  Major deliverable is Master Project Schedule. This Pre-FS is the sole contemporary study on nuclear power in Malaysia, soon after announcement made on 04 May 2010 by YBM KeTTHA. A copy of Final Report was submitted to Government (EPU, EC, KeTTHA, MOSTI) on 15 July 2010’.

In addition, the MNPC presented (in Slide 40) that the Stage 2 Siting Activities were completed in July 2011.  These include “Ranking & Short Listing of Preferred sites, -On the ground Site Verification & Qualification on 5 Candidate sites, -Ranking of 5 Candidate Sites, -Short Listing of 5 sites to identify Preferred Site and Alternative Preferred Site’.

Some of the activities listed include ‘Public Acceptance Programme (2010), Site Selection & Licensing Procedures (2011), Acquisition/Gazette the Preferred/Confirmed Site (s) (2012), and Issuance of “Class F” Site Licence on 1st NPS Site (2013)’.

Further, the MNPC reported that one of the three working committees set up by the government include the NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT WORKING COMMITTEE (TNB) which is responsible for Site Identification, Nuclear Fuel Procurement Planning, and Nuclear Power Plant Conceptual Design (including Project Management and Quality Assurance).

Another committee is the REGULATORY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATION WORKING COMMITTEE (AELB & ST) which is responsible for the Regulation and Licensing of Electricity Generation and Regulation and Licensing of Nuclear Power Plant.

Thus, it is clear that the site identification has been done with several proposed sites and the EIA and RIA completed as well if Gazettement of the Site is to be on schedule in 2012. Considering the magnitude of the nuclear plants and the inherent risks, a detailed EIA and RIA should be mandatory which should include a process of public consultation and public review of these documents. However, it has not happened.

Instead we have the DPM making tentative statements about Malaysia going nuclear while behind the scenes plans to build nuclear power plants are going full steam ahead.

We are gravely concerned that the regulatory agencies have failed to perform their duties according to the law. If the Rakyat are very upset about the Lynas rare earth project, they should be even more concerned about the proposed nuclear plants which would definitely be using radioactive fuels producing high levels of radioactive wastes. Moreover, the nuclear power plant proposal still lacks the enablers such as public acceptance as well as approval of the local population.

The Japanese government recently forced the top managers of TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plants, to quit and Japan’s government is taking over TEPCO after TEPCO had costed an estimated US$100 billion (RM 307 billion) or more in financial damage, not counting the full ecological, social and economic damage to the country. Shareholders are also suing TEPCO top executives for more than US67 billion (RM247.9 billion). This is a grim reminder of the stakes involved (‘Japan’s stricken nuclear operator set for US$13bil bailout’, Starbiz 27 Jan 2012 p8).

There is poor governance within the regulatory agencies in Malaysia.The Fukushima disaster in disciplined Japan should be a lesson to us all.The Rakyat should be gravely concerned as the DoE and the AELB are the same regulatory agencies that have mishandled the Lynas TOL approval process.

In the interest of public accountability and transparency, the Rakyat demands that the Feasibility Studies reports as well as the detailed EIA and RIA reports be made available for public scrutiny immediately.

Letter to the Editor, 5 April 2012