Commentary: The Future of Nuclear Energy in Indonesia
BY :RANDO TUNGGA DEWA
OCTOBER 26, 2016
Indonesia has substantial natural resources in the world, including potential area of various energy and mineral resources. These natural resources, including tin, nickel, copper, gold, oil, gas, coal and other minerals have sustained important role to the national economy.
Most of the Indonesian territories have not been explored thoroughly due to a lack of infrastructure and therefore the requirements to discover new reliable energy and mineral deposits is likely to be significant. However, fossil fuels are still the leading source of energy and primary source of export income of the last few decades, thus it may bring a rapid depletion in the near future.
Among those energy and mineral resources, many are considered non-renewable resources in that their use is not sustainable. Therefore, their utilization involve a proper strategy and they could be continuously beneficial both domestically and internationally and for the future generations as well. Additionally, natural resource exploitation is creating damage in the environment, properly defining regulations regarding to this concern are urgently needed to maintain such negative impact to a minimum scale. More resources should be provided to encompass this issue.
One of the other important energy source in Indonesia is uranium, in which it is the largest producer of the Asia’s reserves. Indonesia also has an adequate of experience and infrastructure in nuclear technology research and development. By considering the natural resource reserves, the application of uranium in nuclear power plants will operate with a more powerful and environment friendly energy source. The vision to have a nuclear power plant is to promote fossil fuels for export commodities. Nuclear energy itself represents the strength of the industry with its optimizing advantages and as a future prospective in electricity demand.
Considerations for future nuclear energy.
Nuclear solution is going to become a role model and more beneficial in the future of worldwide power manufacturing. The critical aspects are numerous, somehow it could be pointed out by the efficient and reliable power production with minimum disposal. In fact, nuclear energy will offer a massive quantity of reliable electricity production at a relatively low cost. The US, UK, China, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine are developing major nuclear energy sources.
The basic scientific process in a nuclear power plant is actually very understandable and logical. Nuclear power plants utilize raw uranium to supply or fuel a reactor in the nuclear industrial process. The fundamental process is that the uranium will be compressed, since it is a radioactive element and unstable and consistently discharges subatomic particles causing a chain reaction in the reactor. The reaction process is rapid and will generate the amounts of heat, evaporating the water into steam, thus rotating the turbines and producing work (in terms of torque) from the shaft connected to the generator for electricity conversion.
Nowadays, the recent issue of how further global warming could be prevented or at least reduced, has been a primary concern for the government. Nuclear power production generates relatively low amounts of carbon dioxide during process and it is capable to produce a massive amount of electrical energy. This possibility also does not go without having substantial disadvantages and risks associated with nuclear power production. Some hesitations still exist, such as the extremely hazardous waste from the nuclear power plant and must be conscientiously monitored. Uranium is a non-renewable energy resource, its supply is estimated to last only for the next decades and could not be recreate in lifetimes. However, nuclear power plant is very complicated to construct and operate. Numerous scientists and engineers are needed to develop a safe and reliable nuclear power plant. This stipulation is important due to the nuclear accident with harmful impacts on humans and environment. Radioactive waste is extremely toxic, causing some serious medical attentions, even small radiation leaks could cause devastating effects such as risk for cancer, blood diseases, and bone damages.
History of nuclear power in Indonesia
Nuclear technology in Indonesia is not a fast-growth process and less significant of attention from the government, compared to the other energy resources, especially Natuna gas field (discovered in 1950s). Even though the research and development on atomic energy also began in 1950s period. In the long and slow progress, the government eventually announced at least four nuclear power plants have been built until 2025, with the total capacity to be at least 4,000 MW of electricity. However, the development of this nuclear technology in Indonesia was not as expected. Protests against these power plants embarked in 2007, thus postponing again the advancement of nuclear technology.
In the long run of mid-2014, the Indonesian government in collaboration with Russia confirmed that they were scheming to construct a 30 MW reactor (Indonesia's first nuclear power plant). However, the government should put an enthusiast interests on advancing nuclear technology and remains more directly involved in the development of civil use of nuclear power. The government has a major impact on the growth of nuclear power plant and specific responsibilities of relevance to policymakers, funding issues, as well as the support for research and developments to facilitate its development.
Indonesia and nuclear future energy
Above perspectives have entail a new aspect and consideration for nuclear power today in Indonesia. The author believe that the nuclear option should be endorsed because it is a carbon-free energy source that can potentially become a future prospective in the electricity demand. To explore the issue of nuclear future energy in Indonesia, the outlook in Indonesia requires three important scenarios: 1) This nuclear power expansion requires some internal understanding of the development in nuclear science and technology through research and development. 2) A critical factor for the future of nuclear energy is the stability governance both economically and politically to embody a nuclear future. Nuclear technology has higher overall lifetime costs and it will require a tremendous financial effort. To preserve the nuclear future, many attempts are required through government involvement in safety as a vital aspect, waste concern, and good internal proliferation in structurally to appreciate the possibility of technology to growth. 3) Public acceptance and education for the development in nuclear technology are the main issues to emphasize that come to pass controversial among the public.
While Indonesia has massive renewable energy sources, it is still insufficient to meet the energy supply of its capacity of the population. Today, Indonesia is far from reliable to implement this technology. However, nuclear power plant is typically regarded as a long-term project for designing, implementing and decommissioning. Since Indonesia is endowed with this scarce resource (uranium) well spread across its geographical area, a political decision should be pursued to go nuclear with the availability of human resources -- both domestically and internationally -- and good cooperation to the vendors.
Rando Tungga Dewa is a PhD. Scholar at the Department of Mechanical Design Engineering, Pukyong National University, Republic of Korea.