Sunday, May 20, 2007
  Taking a Leak - 3

The UK Prime Minister-in-waiting is about to give the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations and his decision is endorsed in today's Sunday Observer editorial.

For the long-term future, Britain needs consistent investment in truly sustainable energy sources. Meanwhile, nuclear is the least worst option even though the questions of safety, especially the treatment of toxic waste, remain highly contentious. There have been some technological advances since the heyday of anti-nuclear protests in the 1980s, but no magic solutions.

The least worst option.


Current nuclear waste management is but a stop-gap bandaid. There is NO permanent solution to this problem, a problem which will tax human ingenuity for as much as the next 100,000 years ~ if our race survives that long. Yet although alternatives exist, blinkered "hey, look at me, I'm going to be Prime Minister for ever" Brown, a newish father and proud of it, deigns to leave a mess that his progeny will be unable to clean up.

A monument to arrogance or, as is more likely, a demonstration of the ties between political and commercial monolithic institutions of greed.

Here in Indonesia, ignorance may still hold sway over arrogance, just.

I've tried, on your behalf, to find answers to the four questions I posed a few days ago.

1. How many nuclear reactors are there in Indonesia?
Answers I have received range from none to one.
In fact there are three, all for experimental use

2. Where (and what) are they?
In Yogyakarta - 100 kW Triga Mark II Research Reactor, Bandung - 1,000 kW Triga Mark II Research Reactor, and Serpong, 40 kilometres west of Jakarta - 30 MW Pool Type Research Reactor.

Another 10,000 kW Pool Type Research Reactor is planned and maybe six nuclear power plants are in the pipeline.

In November last year, the Research and Technology minister, Kusmayanto Kadiman, said that up to four nuclear power stations (could) be built on the Muria Peninsula on the northern coast of Central Java province. Another place being considered as a location for plants is Bangkalan, on the island of Madura in East Java.

There have been public protests from the local communities at both Muara and Madura.

The development of the Muria reactor which will be a Pressurized Water Reactor is expected to commence in 2011 in complete disregard of the potential that the Muria Mountain may became volcanically active again. The Madura reactor which will be a System Modular Advanced Reactor- a technology involving desalination of sea water, is expected to commence with development in 2008.

Both reactors are joint projects with the Korean Hydro Nuclear Power Co. Ltd, known for numerous leakages of radioactive materials at its 16 existing nuclear power plants, and that for the past twenty years it has had no waste disposal facilities.

In October last year, Gorontalo Governor Fadel Muhamad announced a deal with Russian electricity company Raoues to build Indonesia's first nuclear power plant. Apparently, it would be built aboard a ship floating off the shore of Gorontalo and would be designed to have a generating capacity of 90 megawatts, which would be sold to state-owned electricity company PT PLN at a price one-third lower than that of conventional electricity.

"The new plant is expected to start operating by the end of 2007. Gorontalo will be registered as the first province in Indonesia to enjoy nuclear electricity," Fadel said.

By the end of this year? Ho hum. This is yet another Indonesian pipedream, especially, as reported last month, the Russians have only just embarked on building the first floating nuclear power plant. Six of them will supposedly be operational in the Arctic Ocean, where Russia has neither the means nor infrastructure to ensure their safe operation, has made no plans for disposing of their spent nuclear fuel (SNF), and has not taken into consideration the enormous nuclear proliferation risks posed by placing nuclear reactors in remote areas.

Furthermore, officials apparently have not considered their vulnerability to terrorist attacks while on site or during transportation to their intended locations.

South Korea is another nation seeking to export this dangerous technology to Indonesia.This month, a $3.35bn agreement was signed to develop seven energy projects, including a nuclear power plant headed by the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co., possibly to be built on the island of Madura in East Java.

(Read Down to Earth, the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia, for more details.)

3. What happens to their spent fuel?
4. How many leaks of radioactivity have there been?

I do not have the answers to these two questions, although I have tried to find them.

Hazardous Waste - Go Get It

I wrote to the editor of the Nuclear Waste News E-zine, Dana Wilkie.

Greetings Dana,

As Indonesia is preparing to build its first nuclear plant, which scares many people given the many earthquakes, frequent volcanic eruptions, occasional tsunamis and extreme tidal conditions here, there is little information emerging from the Indonesian authorities.

There are three known reactors in West Java for "experimental purposes". Presumably these generate spent fuel.

My question is basic - what happens to it? Also, do you have any information, or can you point me to relevant sites, which can tell us what the authorities intend to do with the waste generated by the proposed plants at Gunung Muara and Madura?

With thanks.

Hello J

The answer to your question is a complicated one. I cannot speak specifically to Indonesia (so) I recommend you start with these two international authorities that govern spent fuel:
International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Dana Wilkie

The IAEA refers one to a number of Indonesian sites, most of which I'd already noted. These include the following:
Badan Tenaga Nuklir Nasional (BATAN) - National Atomic Energy Agency
Badan Pengawas Tenaga Nuklir (BAPETEN) - Nuclear Energy Control Board
Indonesian Institute of Sciences
Nuclear Research Institutes
* DDG, Batan, Jakarta
* R.C.A, C.T.O, Jakarta
* PT. Badak NGL CO., Bontang
* Materials Science Division, IGCAR Kappakkam, Tamil Nadu (eh?)
* National Atomic Energy Agency, Serpong Multipurpose Reactor Centre
* National Atomic Energy Agency, Tangerang Radioisotope Production Centre

One of the few references I have found to waste management is in this document, the Country Profile of Indonesia published by IAEA in December 2003.

BATAN as a government institution is now performing nuclear research and development in energy, health, industry, and other sectors. In relation with the introduction of NPP (nuclear power plants), especially, expertise of BATAN man-power, and the availability of BATAN facilities can be utilized.

Centre for Development of Radioactive Waste Management at Serpong "can be" responsible for R&D on radioactive waste management, and implementation of radioactive waste management.

NB. Their English language site is currently "down for maintenance", and, no, I'm not being satirical. However, there is one paragraph in English on their Indonesian page.

The radioactive waste management in Indonesia is regulated by the Nuclear Energy Act, Environment Protection Act, and other acts pertaining to the safety and all regulations derived from the above-mentioned acts. The radioactive waste processing technology is already proven and widely used in nuclear industrial countries. In performing radioactive waste management, the regulations dictate the necessity of performing a continous environmental monitoring program, so that the safety of the public and the environement from the radiological impact is under control and assured in compliance with the national and international recommendations.

What a comforting thought, eh? The radioactive waste processing technology is "already proven and widely used in nuclear industrial countries". Such as Japan and the UK?

There is an Asian Nuclear Safety Network (ANSN), which might be another comforting thought. Might be, but for it to have just held its first Topical Group meeting on Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) - in Tokyo, 25-26 September 2006 last year seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse after the stable door has been bolted. At least there was an Indonesian representative in attendance.

Potential IAEA regional activities on RWM were established. The intention is to promote
an understanding of concepts in radioactive waste safety; to develop awareness and
understanding of IAEA Radioactive Waste Safety Standards; to assist in the development
of comprehensive and coherent national radioactive waste management strategies and
programmes; and to assist member countries in meeting obligations under the
Joint Convention.

I really don't like that word 'potential'. There is a strong implication in this statement that the Asian nuclear countries are not very clued up on what they should do if something goes wrong

Korea, by the way, may have finally resolved the major problem of where to dispose of its nuclear waste. That they had to resort to bribery fits well with the Indonesian scenario, so let's hope that Gyeongju is the destination of the waste generated at Muria and Madura.

In a precedent-setting referendum, the town of Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang Province won the right to host Korea’s first radioactive waste repository - and along with it will receive a huge package of economic goodies, starting with an investment of 300 billion won (US$288 million) plus millions of dollars in annual commissions depending on how much waste is deposited there.

The government plans to complete the construction of the low- and medium-waste facility in the area by 2008.
[p.211 Nuclear Waste News November 10th 2005]

So there you have it - a Sunday spent finding out quite a bit about the nuclear industry in Indonesia but not the answers to the two key questions: what happens to Indonesia's current radioactive waste and what is intended should happen with the increased volume generated as a by-product of our insatiable 'need' for electricity?



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