Awer: Fed Govt must address core issues on nuclear power plant

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians lack confidence in the ability of Malaysian agencies in regulating nuclear technology to prevent nuclear related incidents, said the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer), after conducting the National Energy Security Survey (NESS).

According to NESS data, only 2.14% of respondents are confident with Malaysian agencies' ability to regulate nuclear technology, while 34.99% of Malaysians opined that the agencies are not able to regulate nuclear technology.

The remaining 62.87% of Malaysians are not sure on the ability of Malaysian agencies to regulate nuclear technology.

"In our NESS study, we wanted also to understand further why there is a negative perception on nuclear. When we asked the respondents on their major concern related to nuclear power plant, 34.44% of Malaysians are concerned about the health impact to them and their family.

"This is followed by 16.22% of Malaysians who are concerned about the impact of radioactive waste to the environment while another 12.75% of Malaysians are concerned about explosion or radioactive materials leakage," Awer president Piarapakaran S. said in a statement yesterday.

He said these three responses namely health impact, radioactive waste impact to the environment as well as a nuclear explosion and leakage indicate that 63.41% of Malaysians are concerned about the nuclear power plant's safety.

"Meanwhile, 34.29% of the Malaysians are not sure what is their main concern related to nuclear power plant. However, we have also included 'I am confident that nuclear power plant is safe' as part of the option and only 2.20% of Malaysians chose this option," he added.

He said the public's concern over the nuclear power plant safety is a major issue that must be addressed by the federal government immediately.

The survey was carried out by Awer to establish a baseline data on energy related issues. Piarapakaran said the federal government needs to address the core issues surrounding nuclear power plant construction immediately.

"These issues are energy mix policy and demand side management, location of nuclear power plant, nuclear power plant safety, decommissioning cost, human capital, spent fuel management and actual long term impact to electricity tariff," he said.

NESS data also showed that Malaysians want the government to study in detail the nation's energy need (resources and demand) first before constructing a nuclear power plant, with 66.61% of respondents in favour of this.

Another 11.00% of Malaysians opined that an in-depth study is not needed while remaining 22.39% of Malaysians are not sure if this is a needed move.

"The response by 66.61% of Malaysians echoes Awer's stand that the government must develop a short-term, mid-term and long-term energy mix policy as well as demand management strategies first before proceeding to build a nuclear power plant," said Piarapakaran.

The majority (69.20%) of survey respondents also felt that the government should disclose the proposed locations for the nuclear power plant first to enable effective feedback from the public.

"This is another issue that has been raised by Awer. Effective public engagement can only be carried out if the proposed locations are revealed immediately. This will allow relevant stakeholders to provide focused, effective and constructive feedback," he said.

On human capital, the survey asked respondents if they are confident that Malaysia has workforce expertise to manage a nuclear power plant.

However, only 20.66% of Malaysians were confident while 79.34% of Malaysians are not confident that Malaysia has the workforce expertise to manage a nuclear power plant facility.

Survey respondents were also concerned about the disposal of radioactive waste materials, with 73.31% of respondents saying that it is not fair to dispose these waste materials in other countries.