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    Southeast Asia’s Nuclear Energy Future: Promises and Perils

    4 years agoReply
    Country Outlooks | Though Southeast Asia is already beginning to tilt toward nuclear energy because of the aforementioned trends, the outlooks of individual countries have thus far remained rather uneven. Country wise, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are the “advancers” who have already floated proposals for the erection of 16 nuclear reactors, while the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar are the “aspirants” that are considering the nuclear option. It is possible that by 2025, all seven “advancers” and “aspirants” could possess some form of nuclear facility. The five “abstainers” – Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, and Singapore, for various reasons, will most likely abstain from nuclear energy, absent any tectonic geopolitical changes in the region that may compel nuclear ambitions.

    Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are the most serious about nuclear energy in Southeast Asia. All three have set goals of possessing a functioning nuclear energy program by 2020, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded that they are very advanced in developing the capabilities necessary for constructing such a program. Their motive thus far, as mentioned earlier, has been purely energy-centric - all three are trying to ease a growing gap between rising electricity demand and the declining availability of other non-nuclear alternatives in a costeffective fashion in light of stratospheric energy prices.

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    The aspirants are countries that are considering the nuclear option but are either not that enthusiastic about it, are not yet deeply invested in it, or face significant obstacles that may thwart a potential pursuit. Malaysia and Cambodia have both shown signs of considering the nuclear option in theory. However they probably will not take concrete steps in that direction anytime soon since the former has sufficient oil and gas reserves for now, while the latter is focused on developing its infrastructure and investing in other forms of renewable energy like hydro-power in the short term. Resource-rich Myanmar does not need nuclear energy for power generation purposes, but is at the early stages of trying to build a small research reactor with Russian assistance. While the Philippines may embark on the project in a few years, it is still reeling from its failed experience with nuclear energy in the 1980s, when its 630-megawatt Bataan nuclear plant was embroiled in corruption allegations under former president Ferdinand Marcos. That alone will make nuclear energy a difficult sell in the Philippines.

    However, the resultant nuclear power generation for both advancers and aspirants, it must be stressed, will only make a small dent on total projected power demand in these countries. For instance, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s (EGAT) plan to construct a 4,000 MW nuclear plant by 2020 will be only a fraction of the expected total energy demand, which is around 56,000 MW, while Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency’s (BATAN) plans for 6,000 MW of nuclear energy by 2025 will be a trickle relative to the projected 59,000 MW total. However, these efforts could also be precursors to much greater country commitments to nuclear energy in the future should they prove effective or should energy demands become even more urgent. Abstainers in Southeast Asia are nations that, for various reasons, are unlikely to pursue nuclear energy in the near future. For Singapore, the complication is technical: it lacks the necessary space for the required safety stand-off range of a nuclear site from urban areas (30 kilometers). Neither Brunei nor Laos see a need for nuclear energy in the shortterm – the former has a wealth of other resources like oil and natural gas, while the latter has significant proven hydropower capabilities. East Timor has barely established the necessary infrastructure for internal electricity generation, and can thus ill-afford to think about its potential for nuclear power generation. Overall, as the nuclear timeline below illustrates, a futuristic assessment of energy portfolios shows that at least three and up to seven Southeast Asian countries could possess some form of nuclear power generation or begin using nuclear power by 2025.

    An Unclear Nuclear Future | There are several sources of anxiety as more Southeast Asian nations strive toward a nuclear future. In particular, the environmental and proliferation hazards associated with nuclear power, combined with the lack of strong regional policing and global norm adherence, are worrying trends that ought to concern policymakers going forward -complete story @
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