Woo Hoo … No Nuclear Power Plants (For Now)!

This is the most relieving news I’ve read about my home country these days, as quoted from The Jakarta Post today:

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said the government has no plans to start work on the controversial nuclear power plant in Mount Muria in Jepara, Central Java. “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has not issued a permit on the project,” Kalla said in a teleconference on Saturday.

After a year of propaganda on the benefits of nuclear power plants by BATAN, and the plan to tender the first nuclear power plant project in Indonesia this year (or next year), the above statement is something I have been waiting for.

Why?

Firstly, because there is no reasons for us to turn to nuclear. There are alternative energy that are still underutilized. Geothermal is the greatest example here. Indonesia has more than 40% of the world’s geothermal reserve, thanks to our position in the ring of fire. Only 5% of this is used to create electricity. Note that geothermal, unlike gas and oil, is renewable. We will never run out of it. And it is environmentally friendly. The volcanic steam that is taken out from the volcano is injected back into the volcano, creating very little environmental impact.

In addition, as a country that has signed The Kyoto Protocol (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol), Indonesia could earn money from the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission. If Indonesia relies more on geothermal and less on oil, gas and coal, we are on the right track not only to provide sufficient electricity for the people, but also to creating income for the state budget.

The sustainability, renewability, environmental friendliness and the potential income from CO2 reduction will obviously offset the slightly higher production cost of geothermal versus nuclear plant, if only our government is able to think long-term.

Secondly, nuclear is no child’s play. One incident is enough to eradicate civilization from the northern part of Central Java for many decades to come. So it needs to be built on stable grounds that is not prone to any kinds of natural disaster, and within a certain radius from civilization.

Let’s look at Jepara and the Mount Muria area. And while Mount Muria is said to have not been active in the past 300 years, the fact is that it sits on the shaky ring of fire. Who would have thought that a giant tsunami would hit Aceh and Nias 2004? Who would have thought that Yogyakarta will fall victim to an earthquake and tsunami in 2006? Then, who could guarantee that natural activities under the surface will not re-activate the currently dormant Mount Muria?

Furthermore, according to a study (http://www.hamline.edu/apakabar/basisdata/1996/05/04/0010.html), approximately 275,000 people live within 20 kilometre radius from the proposed site of the power plant. Most of these people live in simple bamboo or wooden houses, way under the safety requirement for living around a nuclear site.

The two hospitals within this radius are not equipped to deal with radioactive-related diseases. And of course, the people do not know how to deal with emergencies like evacuation route, warning signs and first-aid in reference to nuclear. Many of them do not even know what nuclear is, and what nuclear power will bring them.

Thirdly, Mount Muria is an area full of history. The nation’s most prominent women empowerment hero, Kartini, started her movement here. Islam started spreading in Central Java from this area. This is also the birthplace of Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (Indonesian Muria Christian Church), to which I am a member.

In addition, this is the area where my grandparents live, and my mother grew up. My grandfather was buried in Jepara just a few months ago. Until today, I still look forward to visiting this place during its durian season, eating seafood by the sea, cycling to the market or the Kartini Museum, while walking around to see antique furnitures. And I hope none of these things will change just because our government is too short-sighted and stone-headed to cancel its nuclear ambition.

So I applaud the government’s status quo on nuclear power plants. It means there is still time to convince public and the government that nuclear is not the way to go. So please continue to voice these concerns.

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