Is Nuclear Energy a Viable Option?
To answer the question posed by the title of this paper, the citizens and government of
any country considering the introduction of nuclear energy must address the following
• Environmental and health impacts.
• Economics and timescale of deployment.
We will consider these issues and then ask some fundamental questions.
Should we continue to contaminate this world of ours by using nuclear technology which has already polluted so much of our air and water and soil, our only planet. In so doing are we acting in the interests of those unborn future generations who will inherit an uninhabitable world.
Should we allow the government of the day whose sole duty is as custodian and trustee of the resources and land of this country to disregard the concerns of the populace and continue to act against humanity and against community interests in order to profit those in the nuclear industry and related businesses or out of other undisclosed motives.
Ten Reasons to Consider
1. Nuclear power produces radioactive waste.
All over the world, no country has been able to satisfactorily store their atomic waste even after decades of nuclear reactor use. This radioactive waste lasts for thousands of years, and is a terrible legacy to leave to our younger generation. USA and Canada each have more than 60,000 metric tons of spent uranium fuel stored onsite. The USA stores it at 66 commercial and 55 military as well as 10 ‘orphan’ ie. shutdown nukeplant sites, with no depository to send it for safe-keeping. After spending nine billion on Yucca Mountain, the USA still cannot decide whether to ever use it (among other things it was only designed for 70,000 tons and is located on a volcanic structure)! In Bukit Merah, Mitsubishi has spent >100 million USD cleaning up on its thorium disposal after the Asian Rare Earth fiasco in 1992. Moreover, mining and processing uranium also produces radioactive waste.
There is little doubt that Malaysia has a substandard maintenance culture and a poor track record in governance and performance by public institutions and agencies which deal with health, safety and environmental regulations, legal compliance and liability.
For example, when the government approved the setting up of Mitsubishi’s Asian Rare Earth (ARE) factory in 1982 in Bukit Merah, Perak, to extract rare earth elements from tin tailings, the approved technology had already been banned in 1971 in Japan. In the process, radioactive thorium waste, with a half-life of 13.9 billion years, was dumped in a pond and a field next to the plant and other illegal dump-sites.
Disregarding a High Court injunction against the ARE company, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) issued a licence to ARE to continue operations in 1987. The factory finally closed in 1994, but decommissioning and decontamination of the factory only took place in 2003 and 2005. For almost 30 years, about eighty thousand 200-litre drums containing radioactive waste were stored in a concrete building at a dumpsite in the Kledang Range. The corroded drums and rainwater seepage caused leaking of contaminated water into the environment. It was only in January 2011 that work was finally started to build an underground storage system. The ongoing clean-up is estimated to cost RM300 million.
These incredible events expose the government’s unwillingness to protect the public from health and environmental hazards, in the face of profit-driven corporate pressure. They also expose the AELB’s lack of independence, competence and capacity to deal with radioactive waste.
In September 2006, the American nuclear submarine, USS Houston which had made port calls at Japan, Singapore and Port Klang, reported that it was leaking radiation. The Singapore and Japanese governments asked the United States for detailed information and deployed monitoring mechanisms. However, Malaysia’s Ministry of Defence, under then Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, declared that no probe would be carried out or action taken, as no report or information had been received or lodged on the radiation leak. But foreign reports confirmed that all the governments affected by the leak had been given reports of the incident. This is just another example of government apathy and/or incompetence in dealing with nuclear hazards.
In 2008, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the AELB gave
speedy approval for the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) to build a refinery in Gebeng, Pahang, and to start operations. This was done with incomplete environmental and radiological impact assessments and without public participation in the decision-making process.
Lynas plant in Gebeng has a serious waste problem. It is estimated that it will import 66,000 tonnes of ore concentrate from Australia every year and process the ore to yield about 22,000 tonnes of high purity rare earth metals.
In the process, the Lynas plant will also produce enormous amounts of toxic and radioactive waste. The production of every tonne of rare earth metals will generate 8.5 kilograms (18.7 lbs) of fluorine, 13 kilograms (28.7 lbs) of dust, 9,600 – 12,000 cubic metres of waste gas (containing dust concentrate, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide and sulphuric acid), 75 cubic metres of acidic waste-water, and about one ton of radioactive waste, including thorium and uranium.
So, multiply these figures on waste by a factor of 22,000 and it will give you a clear picture of the total volume of waste, amounting to about 220,000 tonnes (including 120 tonnes of radioactive thorium with ½ life 14.05 billion years), to be disposed of every year. In addition, the process will use up and pollute 500 tonnes of clean water every hour. This enormous volume of polluted water will then be discharged into the Balok River and will eventually contaminate the South China Sea.
2. Nuclear Power limits clean energy.
Every ringgit spent on nuclear is not available for green energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency. It is an inflexible, expensive, time constrained method of electricity generation and not as environmentally friendly as publicized by its proponents. The reactors have a finite life span, need expensive construction as well as decommissioning and have to be guarded around the clock for hundreds/thousands of years because of the radioactive waste. Moreover, it is not as carbon friendly as renewables..
A 2008 synthesis of 103 studies, published by Benjamin K. Sovacool, determined that the value of CO2 emissions for nuclear power over the lifecycle of a plant was 66.08 g/kWh, based on the mean value of all the 103 studies. Comparative results for wind power, hydroelectricity, solar thermal power, and solar photovoltaic were 9-10 g/kWh, 10-13 g/kWh, 13 g/kWh and 32 g/kWh respectively.
I fail to see how anybody can call nuclear energy as clean or environmentally friendly when you have to spend billions to clean up after an accident, since it’s environmental footprint is so large that hundreds of thousands of people are displaced from their homes, while large tracts of land are made uninhabitable and impossible to cultivate, and it takes decades to manage proper decontamination while thousands will die because of cancer, and a host of illnesses brought on by irradiation. 27 years after Chernobyl nobody eats wild boar in Germany because they are radioactive!
3. Nuclear Power is not completely safe.
Safe nuclear power is a myth. Human error (Chernobyl), technical failure ( Three Mile Island), natural disaster (Fukushima), corrosion (Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia) etc. have all caused humanitarian concerns not to mention hundreds of billions to handle the aftermath. The nuclear industry knows that the risk of major nuclear accident is real and requires a special law, the Nuclear Liability Act, to protect it financially from the liability of accidents and who are the real people who pay as well as suffer from these accidents – the common population who have to pay the taxes on it and even move away from contaminated areas, apart from effects on their health.
Fukushima’s tragedy is Chernobyl’s disaster revisited. More than five hundred thousand have been evacuated from a 20 km radius and early on, the government in an effort not to panic people revised the radiation exposure of young children in schools to a staggering 3.8microSv per hour, which depending on the time spent outside will come to about 20mSv per annum of total radiation dose, the upper limit of radiation exposure for workers at nuclear plants. How irresponsible is that! At these levels of lower radiation, research from Chernobyl has shown that even for adults it causes cancer, cardiovascular disease, visual impairment, gastrointestinal disease, leukaemia, neurologic damage, premature aging and early deaths!
According to a report published in October 2011 by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, between 21 March and mid-July around 2.7 × 1016 Bq of caesium-137 entered the ocean, about 82 percent having flowed into the sea before 8 April. This emission of radioactivity into the sea represents the most important individual emissions of artificial radioactivity into the sea ever observed.
25 years after Chernobyl, virtually all the 800,000 liquidators who had to clean up and cover the sarcophagus which is Chernobyl are completely invalid, and more than a quarter have died. They have genomic instability and have passéd on these genes to their children, many of whom have thyroid cancers. An estimate is 30,000 to 207,000 children genetically damaged children worldwide. In the Ukraine, brain tumours in children under 3 yrs, rose from < 2 /yr to more than 10/yr after Chernobyl. And don’t trust WHO press releases. The WHO has already become a subordinate agency to the IAEA with regard to statements on nuclear matters, and since IAEA is a promoter of nuclear energy, it is already biased. 4. Nuclear Power plants are a terrorist or war target. Such plants are attractive to terrorists because of its importance to electricity supply, the consequences of radioactive releases and because of their symbolic character. Imagine the effects of a plane crashing on the stockpile of radioactive caskets or the plant or in the event of hostilities, just a nice little bomb or cruise missile would do neatly for your antagonist who would just sit back and enjoy the drama. 5. Nuclear Power is unreliable and dependent on fossil fuels. There is no guarantee that these power generators will be free from maintenance problems and history is replete with stories of generators being shut down because of poor performance or safety concerns, such as happened in Ontario in 1997 when eight of the province’s twenty reactors went awry, turning to coal and gas generation when this happened. It ended up adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and billions of dollars to repair! 6. Nuclear Power is a cause of nuclear arms proliferation If we truly value peace, then we should consider this as a poor alternative to solar energy and other renewable sources. “In theory, reprocessing spent fuel and recycling it in fast breeder reactors reduces the quantity of uranium mined and leaves more of the waste in forms that remain radioactive for only a few centuries rather than many millennia. But in practice, it is problematic because it is expensive, reduces waste only marginally (unless an extremely costly and complex recycling infrastructure is built which will add one to two billion USD to the cost), and increases the risk that the plutonium in the spent fuel will be used to make nuclear weapons.” Frank N von Hippel (physicist). In fact in USA, three fast breeder reactors closed and Sellafield in UK was also closed temporarily whilst only the La Hague in France is still open and Rokkaso-Mura in Japan is under testing. Fast breeders A theoretically possible option would be to switch to fast breeder reactors, which ‘breed’ so much plutonium from U-238 that, in theory, they can multiply the original uranium fuel by 50. The world’s last large fast breeder reactor, the French Superphénix, was closed in 1998, after many technical problems and costing about A$15 billion. At present there are no commercial scale fast breeders operating. The Russian 600 MWdemonstration fast neutron70 reactor, Beloyarsk, is operating, but it has a history of accidents and does not seem to have ever operated as a breeder. The pro-nuclear MIT study does not expect that the breeder cycle will come into commercial operation during the next three decades71. Even if another fast breeder were to be built in the future, large-scale chemical reprocessing of spent fuel would be necessary to extract the plutonium and unused uranium. Since spent fuel is intensely radioactive, reprocessing has its own hazards and costs, as mentioned in section 2. Thorium reactors Another possible response to the shortage of high-grade uranium arises from estimates that there is about three times as much thorium in the Earth’s crust as uranium. Although thorium itself is not fissile (that is, cannot be split), it can be converted into an isotope of uranium, U-233, which is fissile, by bombarding it with neutrons. In a conventional approach, the neutrons would be produced by fission of a mixture of U-235 and Pu-239. This would be a complicated system involving a type of breeder reactor. India is attempting to develop such a system. A simpler thorium reactor design would use a particle accelerator to produce the neutrons. This has the advantage that the reactor is fail-safe. Unlike an ordinary uranium reactor, the accelerator-driven thorium reactor can be shut down by simply switching off the particle beam. Furthermore, the nuclear wastes produced by this kind of reactor have much shorter half-lives than from a uranium or plutonium reactor. However, with some difficulty, the U-233 could be extracted to make nuclear bombs. How much did CERN cost? 2.6 billion pounds. 7. Nuclear Plants emit radioactive emissions There is a definite increase in radioactivity around nuclear power staions, with particulate pollutants such as tritium (radioactive hydrogen with 1 proton + 2 neutrons) going into the air, soil and water and consequently into the food chain. This increases the risk of cancer, leukaemia and birth defects. There is also the storage water ponds for the spent fuel rods which need cooling for five years before transfer by robots into radioactive protective casks and stored onsite. The incidence of leukaemia among children of workers at Sellafield is twice the national average.. (2002 and 1990 studies). Since 1990, 18 cases of leukaemia were reported in children around Kruemmel, one of Germanys nuclear plants, which is three times the national average. At one conference, Gloria Hsu Kuang-Jun from Taiwan showed data from the Archives of Environmental Health, vol 58.. that showed vicinity infant death rates and cancer rates decreasing substantially within 2 to 7 years after nuclear plants closed down. Even without such accidents, a nuclear power plant is dangerous to health. A scientific study, published in the European Journal of Cancer Care in 2008, revealed that leukaemia death rates in American children living near nuclear power plants in the United States have risen sharply in the past two decades. The greatest increases in mortality rates occurred near the oldest NPPs, whereas declining rates were observed near plants that were closed permanently in the 1980s and 1990s. The 13.9% rise in deaths near older NPPs suggests a potential effect of greater radioactive contamination near nuclear reactors. In a 2007 meta-analysis of 17 research papers, covering 136 nuclear sites in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, the United States, Germany, Japan and Spain, the incidence of leukaemia in children under nine, living close to the sites, showed an increase from 14% to 21%, while death rates rose from 5% to 24%. A German study, published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2008, found a 60% increase in cancers and a 117% increase in leukaemia among young children living near all 16 large German NPPs between 1980 and 2003. The most striking finding was that children living within 5 km of NPPs were more than twice as likely to get cancer as those living further away. This finding has been accepted by the German government. 8. Nuclear Power is expensive. Many nuclear plants undergo massive cost over-runs and delays, a burden to the general population in terms of debt and bills incurred for long term management of radioactive waste. In Finland, a third generation reactor was supposed to be built from August 2005 to May 2009 (for commencing operations) but it is now scheduled to be ready by December 2011 with a massive 60 percent cost overrun on the 3.2 billion Euro project! Now TVO and Areva are suing each other! Claims that nuclear energy is cheap are based on hidden assumptions. Huge subsidies are ignored such as R & D, enrichment of uranium, insurance liability, wastes storage, and decommissioning and since nuclear power has high capital costs and lower operating cost, its proponents choose unrealistically low interest/discount rate or accounting methods that shrinks interest and capital repayments. In UK there is a fossil fuel levy of up to 1.3 billion £ per year to subsidise nuclear power after electricity privatization in 1990’s. It works out to about 3p/kWh which is almost equivalent to the cost of wind power generation at 4-5p/kWh. Nuclear subsidies in USA already top $100 billion! If it is so darned good, why is there need to subsidise it! The availability of Federally guaranteed loans, and/or a guarantee of the ability to charge ratepayers (often during construction) for the costs of a new facility, are no substitute for prudent business judgment. Simply shifting the burden of risks from the utility’s shareholders and executives, to the taxpayers and ratepayers does not make any risks go away. It simply sets up yet another situation where profits are privatized while risks are socialized, allowing those who make bad decisions to walk away from the effects of their own imprudence. What is prudent business judgment? In practice, prudence means avoiding the choice of high-risk options, when a lower-risk option will “get the job done”. A major MIT study entitled “The Future of Nuclear Power” was published in 2003. Although it recommended “the nuclear option be retained” strictly because of global warming concerns , MIT also stated “Today, nuclear power is not an economically competitive choice. Moreover, unlike other energy technologies, nuclear power requires significant government involvement because of safety, proliferation, and waste concerns.” The study outlined four challenges — costs, safety, proliferation, and wastes – that would all need to be overcome for nuclear power to be a viable option. Its economic analysis was done before recent capital cost escalations occurred, that now indicate much higher construction costs for nuclear plants. Nevertheless even with low capital cost projections, the MIT economic analysis found nuclear power to be a more costly method of power generation than coal or natural gas. (The study specifically did not consider other energy generation options such as wind, solar, or geothermal.) Only with a combination of very high carbon taxes and several “plausible but unproven” possibilities to reduce nuclear power costs did the study find the cost per kWh of nuclear power could be competitive with coal or natural gas. Early in 2008, the Wall Street Journal and several other publications carried headline news stories about skyrocketing cost projections for new nuclear power plants, indicating new projections it may cost $9 billion to $12 billion to build a single new nuclear power plant18 (the estimates were for different size reactors, therefore both translate into $8000 – $8500 per KW of capacity). Economic theory says when making a decision about what to do next (e.g when you realize the project is coming in much more costly than planned), you should ignore “sunk costs” because regardless of what you do now, you cannot “unspend” those monies. The reality, however, is that abandoning a project you have already spent a lot of money on can be next to impossible. As a nuclear reactor is all one unit, you cannot build ‘half a reactor” and ever get any electricity. Pressure to continue the uneconomical course is therefore intense, precisely because so much money has already been spent which will all be wasted if the project is not finished. Contrast this to a Demand Side Management/Renewables scenario, whose costs are modular and short-term. If course corrections are needed, it is possible to quickly change course, without abandoning an expensive asset that will never produce any electricity. A utility might build 100 MW of solar, which will produce electricity whether or not the utility builds another 100 MW. The “fix” that utilities and the nuclear industry have proposed for the negative impact on utility cash flow and its attendant effect on credit ratings is to implement substantial advanced charges to ratepayers during construction of the plant.45 Typically such charges ,variably referred to as Early Cost Recovery, or Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) charges, pass through, with immediate rate increases, the full Cost of Capital used during construction of the plant. (As noted previously this is roughly a third of the total Capital Cost, e.g. approximately $7 Billion (“Medium” case) in recovery charges levied on ratepayers early, for a 2-unit 2,234 MW new nuclear facility.) Note that such early charges to ratepayers are in exchange for zero kWh’s delivered by the facility, as it is not yet in service – nothing but a hope of future kWh’s is delivered. 9. Nuclear Power is not the answer to climate change. If you remember Sovacool’s study above, it is certainly not that carbon friendly. Moreover there is a long lead time to build and operate a plant, whereas a solar or wind power installation would need much less time. Even China can only plan to generate 6 % of electricity by 2020 from nuclear which is currently 2.5%. But it plans to target renewable energy to >16% by the same year – 40gw by 2015 for solar PV; simply because it is more feasible! Sunny Spain has about 30 solar thermal plants under construction and may have 8,000 megawatts installed by 2020, depending on the pricing system which needs to be coordinated in order not to push up the price of wholesale electricity. Over here, we are subsidizing the IPP’s! Germany has incentives for wind energy since 1990’s and now have 25 GW installed wind power and 5 GW photovoltaics (Dr Christopher Stiller, STAR 23.08.2009). Malaysia is the 3rd largest producer of solar cells, has abundant sunshine and puny solar installations! Where are our priorities?
10. Nuclear Power is not a winner in the popularity stakes.
Nowhere in the world is the population enamoured by nuclear power because of cost overruns, government subsidies borne by the masses, poor performance, mounting stockpiles of waste, health problems with accidents, security concerns and others. Locally our TNB is considering building a Generation III/III+ Evolutionary Design reactor.
The vendors are ASE Gidopress, KHNP, Areva, Westinghouse, MHI, GE-Hitachi, and GE-Hitachi-NRG-Toshiba. The funny thing is that the design certification status with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commision for all these reactors have not been approved yet for all except AP1000 (Westinghouse). But wait..the GITTO report to ANSTO(Australia) 2006 on the economics of AP1000 reported that it would only be economical if Australian Govt pays large subsidies on both capital & operating costs or Govt makes large unsecured loan (= subsidy). Makes you smell a rat somewhere. If Malaysians have to subsidise power generation let it be for solar/ wind or other less dangerous methods, which ultimately benefit us.
In general terms, the feasible alternatives to nuclear energy are (i)
measures that reduce the demand for electricity and (ii) alternative sources of electricity
that are low in greenhouse gas emissions, notably renewable energy.
5.1 Reducing electricity demand
The wide range of technologies and measures for improving the efficiency of energy
use are the cheapest and fastest to implement. This approach can yield large electricity
savings and very large savings in primary energy at zero or negative net costs. In
substituting for base-load thermal power stations, every unit of electricity saved
substitutes for about three units of primary energy at the power station. If the primary
energy is the chemical energy stored in coal, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
is substantial. Furthermore, the economic savings from efficient energy use can pay for
a large proportion of the additional costs of low-carbon electricity supply. 64,65
In each of many countries, several base-load power stations (both coal and nuclear) are
operated between midnight and dawn solely to heat water via electric resistance heating.
Substituting solar, gas and electric heat pump hot water, together with some additional
grid-connected gas and renewable power during the daytime, could significantly reduce
the demand for base-load electricity and enable some existing base-load power stations
to be retired and proposed new stations to be delayed.
Small cogeneration (combined heat and power) stations, installed at the points of energy
use in the commercial and industrial sectors, can also save energy and, in some cases,
Suitable fuels are natural gas and biomass (organic) residues. In addition,
trigeneration plants are coming onto the market. These can produce electricity, heat (for
hot water, space heating or industrial process heat) and cooling (e.g. for air
conditioning). The high efficiency of fuel utilisation by cogeneration and trigeneration
makes them both a means of reducing electricity demand and a relatively clean form of
electricity, heating and cooling.
2 Renewable energy supply
These are listed in order of increasing cost. The technologies are described in more
• Hydro-electricity, both large-scale and small-scale. It should be noted that largescale
hydro generally has large environmental impacts and may also displace large
numbers of people from their land. Hydro-electricity based on large dams flooding
large areas in the tropics can produce greenhouse gas (methane) emissions similar
in impact to the CO2 emissions from an equivalent coal-fired power station.
• Wind power at suitable sites. In South-East Asia, there may be some limited
potential on coastal sites, but little inland.
• Bioenergy, in particular, burning organic residues to generate electricity and heat.
Cogeneration and trigeneration are efficient forms of energy generation from
The above three sources are commercially available and at suitable sites are generally
less expensive than nuclear energy.
The other commercially available source of electricity is solar photovoltaic (PV) power,
which is still expensive for urban/suburban use, although it is often the most appropriate
electricity source for small-scale uses in locations remote from the grid and for a wide
range of niche uses everywhere. Prices will be much lower within a decade, as the
recent advances made in laboratory (e.g. thin films; crystalline silicon on glass; Sliver
cells) enter the market on a large-scale. In doing the economics of PV installed at the
point of use, it should be noted that it competes with the retail price of grid electricity,
not the wholesale price. The retail price can be 2–4 times the wholesale price. This
means that residential PV is already close to being economically competitive in Europe
and several other countries with high retail prices of grid electricity.
Another promising technology, that is rapidly expanding from a small base in the USA
and Spain, is solar thermal electricity, sometimes called ‘concentrating solar thermal
power’. Some of the recent solar thermal power stations being built in Spain have
thermal energy storage of up to 7.5 hours in molten salt. In principle, 24-hour storage is
feasible. A 10 MW solar thermal power station under development for the town of
Cloncurry in Queensland, Australia, will have 24-hour storage in graphite blocks. Since
solar concentrators only focus direct sunlight, these systems are less efficient in
capturing sunlight in tropical areas where much of the sunlight is diffuse.
Currently, electricity is being generated from hot rock geothermal power at small
prototype power stations, each rated at 1–6 MW, in France and Germany, and the first
generation expected within several months in Australia69. The hot rock source has a
much larger potential geographically than conventional geothermal power, which is
limited to volcanic regions such as the Philippines and New Zealand. The potential for
both conventional and hot rock geothermal power should be explored further in South-
Other technologies under development, that may have some potential for coastal
regions, are ocean current power and wave power.
Proponents of nuclear energy offer the dream of a new generation of nuclear power
stations that is safe, ‘clean and green’ and inexpensive. Unfortunately, reality seen in
daylight is the complete opposite:
• Nuclear energy is still being generated with technologies developed in the 1960s
and 70s, with slight improvements.
• Nowadays the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and terrorism are actually
greater than in the 1970s. Based on recent climate modelling, we now know that even a ‘small’ nuclear war could result in the starvation of billions of people as a
result of nuclear winter.
• Nuclear reactors are still not fail-safe. They expose populations to a small annual
risk of a catastrophic core melt-down followed by steam and chemical explosions,
with associated release of vast quantities of deadly radioactive solids, liquids and
• There is still no operating facility anywhere in the world for the long-term
management of high-level nuclear wastes. There is no social experience for creating
an institution that could guard and manage such facilities for thousands of years, let
alone hundreds of thousands.
• Within several decades, as low-grade uranium ore has to be mined and milled, CO2
emissions from the conventional nuclear fuel chain will become much greater than
those from wind, solar and other renewable sources of electricity. So the marketing
of nuclear energy as ‘CO2-free’ is misleading.
• Despite 50 years of big subsidies, the true economic costs of nuclear energy are
consistently far higher than admitted by proponents, who use misleading
presentations to hide its very high capital costs. The estimated capital cost of new
nuclear power stations has escalated rapidly since 2005.
• At present nuclear energy cannot compete economically with efficient energy use,
solar hot water, cogeneration, wind power or bioelectricity from agricultural and
forestry residues. Within a decade, the retail price of nuclear electricity delivered to
the residential consumer may not be able to compete with the price of residential
PV electricity in most countries. Other promising alternatives, hot rock geothermal
power, ocean current power and wave power, could possibly compete with nuclear
power within a decade.
• Nuclear energy’s contribution to energy security is negligible in China, India and
most other countries. Only in Japan, France, Belgium and South Korea does it play
a significant role.
These disadvantages, taken together, are so great that they raise questions about the
motivations of governments that decide to invest in nuclear energy. It seems that the
only reason for committing to such huge costs and risks is to develop covertly nuclear
weapons, or at least become ‘nuclear weapons ready’. This would induce regional
nuclear arms races and increase the risk of nuclear war.
Dr Thong Kok Wai
MPSR (Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility)
½ life caesium 137 is 30 yr, iodine 131- 8 days, iodine129 15.7 million yrs, thorium 14.05 billion yrs, strontium 90- 28.8 yrs, tritium (hydrogen) 12.3 yrs, uranium 238 – 4.4 billion yrs, plutonium 239 – 24,100 yrs.