Fukushima disaster doesn't deter Malaysian government’s nuclear plan

Begining of the works for the installation
fo a APR1400 nuclear reactor near Busan
Republic of Korea. It's the same kind of
non tested device that Malaysian government
plans to buy, according to Korean activists
(Photo: KEPCO)

The government of Malaysia continues studying the introduction of nuclear energy, in spite of the warnings launched by 14 national civil society groups and others from Korea, Australia and specially Japan after the Fukushima tragedy. An alliance formed by groups of nearby countries, along with three based in Malaysia --the Third World Network and the Consumers Association of Penang (member of Social Watch) and the national chapter of Friends of the Earth International--, called on the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s government to stop its nuclear power development plan.

This regional coalition expressed in October their conviction that nuclear power has no place in Malaysia’s quest to chart a sustainable energy future. The appeal was known seven months after the tragedy at the Japanese nuclear plant in Fukushima.

In a public forum convened at the University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, the alliance remarked the potential of energy efficiency and renewable sources to achieve a healthy power generation mix in the near future for the country.

The groups urged the government to increase its support for these sectors instead of spending taxpayers’ money on nuclear technology which has proven to be economically, environmentally and socially harmful.

“The reason why the conference was held in Malaysia was to protest against the nation’s plan to introduce nuclear power generation in the period between 2013 and 2015,” reported Japanese activist Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the Japanese Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC).

“The location of the nuclear power plant is unknown, since the Malaysian government has not officially announced the location. However, if the government plans to start nuclear power generation in 2013 or around that time, it would be no surprise if it had already made an informal decision on the location,” Ban added.

Regardless of this warning, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak reported weeks later to the Parliament that his government is “still studying nuclear energy as an option for the generation of electricity, while taking into consideration the instability of the Japanese nuclear reactor caused by a recent earthquake.”

“The government is analyzing short and long-term plans, taking into account all infrastructural aspects recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he added in the report, issued in December.

The forum also heard the sufferings of the people of Fukushima from the 11 March 2011 tsunami-triggered crisis that saw the meltdown of the three reactors in the Daiichi nuclear power plant in that Japanese region.

“The accident in Fukushima once again reminded us that once a severe accident happens, environmental and social impacts are irreversible,” said Eri Watanabe, nuclear and energy campaigner of Friends of the Earth in Japan.

“So far, the Japanese government cannot sufficiently protect their people from radiation. However, its policy of promoting the exports of nuclear power technology continues. This is morally wrong because its own people are still suffering so much from the accident,” added Watanabe.

“I strongly recommend the Malaysian government and the people to rethink the introduction of nuclear energy,” an option that, according to the expert, will not guarantee the “prosperity” and the safety of “the next generations,” the expert said.

For his part, Ban remembered that his country’s government and electricity companies insisted that “Japanese nuclear technology is superior”. “However, Fukushima showed us that they were wrong,” he insisted.

“The fallout from the nuclear reactors contaminated the land, the air and the sea of a vast area. I want the Malaysian government and its people to recognize that the Fukushima tragedy could happen to any country that embraces nuclear power,” CNIC co-director added.

Seiichi Nakate, representative of the Fukushima Network for Protecting Children from Radiation, said: “I don’t want the Malaysian people to experience the tragedy that people in Fukushima are facing now. More than 100,000 families have been separated because of the nuclear accident. And even now, one million people still live in contaminated areas with deep sufferings and anxiety.”

“Human beings must abandon nuclear power plants. We must not allow a single nuclear power plant to be built anymore,” Nakate alerted.

Kim Hye Jeong, executive coordinator of the Korea Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM, national chapter of FOE) said, remembered that Korea’s nuclear plants have a record of 646 accidents in 32 years since the installation of the first reactor in 1978.

The expert reported that Malaysian government is planning to buy from Korea the APR1400 nuclear reactor, a device that has not been tested.

“We condemn the South Korean Government’s plan to export such sub-standard technology to a developing country like Malaysia under the pretext of international technical cooperation,” Kim said.

The Korean IT Times, an economic monthly magazine published in Seoul in English, reported in June that the state-run Korean Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) aims to become one of the world's top five energy and engineering companies by 2020” through what they consider “low carbon and green growth projects.”

“Our company plans to export its nuclear power plant facility and technology to Egypt, South Africa, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Malaysia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Thailand,” said a KEPCO’s spokesperson to the Korean IT Times.

“Australian uranium was used in the Fukushima reactors that were destroyed in March,” added Green, national nuclear campaigner of FoE-Australia. “We Australians do not want to be responsible for similar disasters in Malaysia.”

He also said over a 50-year lifespan, a single nuclear reactor is responsible for 1,500 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste and a staggering 35,000 tonnes of low level radioactive tailings waste. The Malaysian government should not bequeath this toxic legacy to future generations.

He further reminded that nuclear power is the only energy source with the capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction.

“It is far better to choose energy efficiency” from renewable sources, he added. Following the forum, several Malaysian civil society groups pledged to work together in a concerted campaign against the proposed nuclear power plants.

The warning to Malaysian government was signed by Friends of the Earth Japan (FOE-Japan), Citizen Nuclear Information Centre (CNIC), Fukushima Network for Protecting Children from Radiation, Korea Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM/FOE-South Korea), Friends of the Earth Australia (FOE-Australia), Friends of the Earth Malaysia (Sahabat Alam Malaysia), Consumers’ Association of Penang and Third World Network. Another open letter was signed by 14 Malaysian organizations.

More information:
Malaysian NGO statement on nuclear power plants: http://bit.ly/zrJSc2

This report is based on data from the following sources:
Aliran Monthly: http://bit.ly/A7ANxl
Korea IT Times: http://bit.ly/xgSGs2
Nuclear Street: http://bit.ly/tVW1s0
KEPCO: http://bit.ly/cDKpve
Nucleaire’11: http://bit.ly/xJQdKg
CNIC: http://bit.ly/zZSw7S