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House to pass nuclear bill by the end of this month

Jakarta Post - February 12, 1997

Jakarta – The House of Representatives will pass the controversial bill on nuclear power in its plenary meeting scheduled assage omittefor Feb. 26, a legislator said yesterday. Muhammad Buang of the United Development Party faction, who was involved in the deliberations of the bill introduced in January last year, said that House approval of the bill "would hopefully allay public concerns over the possibility of a nuclear accident.

"The law won't be able to eliminate all risks, but I am sure that if the law is properly implemented, the possibility of accidents will be minimized," he said. Buang did not elaborate on how the House members managed to break the deadlock in the deliberations caused by some legislators' refusal to comply with a Dec. 12 deadline imposed on them by the government.

He did not explain, either, how the legislators settled differences over several crucial issues, including the establishment of a body to monitor the operation of the planned nuclear plant. Buang, however, said that the legislators had managed to add several articles on plant safety to the bill. These cover, among other things, the questions of the transportation of nuclear waste and of manpower, which Buang said were crucial.

The bill, should it come into effect, will require any plan to establish a nuclear power plant to go through four stages of supervision and control. If a state agency wishes to construct a plant, the plan should first be subjected to scrutiny from a supervisory body that will have to be established by the government.

The public will also be able to control the performance of the supervisory body through an independent advisory body, to be called the "Nuclear Power Supervisory Council" and consisting of experts and community leaders. "The Council will function in ways similar to the National Commission on Human Rights. It will be founded through a presidential decree," Buang said.

Next, any plan for a nuclear plant would also have to be approved by the House of Representatives. Buang said the bill has placed safety as the utmost consideration.

"The question of safety should be above any political or economic interests," he said. He also said the House would have to be consulted when the government discussed the question of "sustainable storage" for the nuclear waste.

Finally, the bill strives to regulate that any decisions made on nuclear power plants should be in accordance with the international conventions on nuclear plants that the country has ratified, he said. The document also prohibits dumping of foreign nuclear waste in Indonesia. "We need to state this clearly. Otherwise, we don't know, there could be countries wishing to do so," he said. Reaction

An environmental organization demanded yesterday that the House recant its approval of the bill. Angela Hindiarti of the Indonesian Forum of Environment (Walhi) said the House should first allow the public to contribute ideas for the document.

"From the outset the public has been excluded from deliberation on the bill, especially people living near the site where the government proposes to build a nuclear plant," she said. The government has already conducted feasibility studies to build a nuclear power plant on the Muria Peninsula in Central Java.

Walhi is against the bill on the grounds it was a retrospective act, drafted merely to provide a legal basis for the Muria plant. "A new document on nuclear energy should be drafted, one which includes people's aspirations," she said.

Late last month, 25 environmental organizations made the same appeal to the House of Representatives, charging that the bill was concocted only to legitimize the planned plant. Besides Walhi, the other signatories included the Indonesian Antinuclear Society, the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development. (08)