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Indonesia hopes to allay public concern with nuclear power bill

Straits Times - February 14, 1997

Jakarta – Indonesia's Parliament will pass a controversial Bill on nuclear power at its plenary meeting on February 26, legislator Muhammad Buang, who has been involved in deliberations, told The Jakarta Post.

Mr Buang, from the Muslim-based United Development Party, said he hoped that passage of the Bill, which was introduced in January last year, would 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 minimised," the paper quoted him saying in a report published on Wednesday.

Mr Buang did not elaborate on how the legislators settled differences over a number of crucial issues, including the establishment of a body to monitor the operation of the planned nuclear plant.

But he said legislators managed to add several provisions relating to plant safety in the Bill. These cover, among other things, questions relating to transportation of nuclear waste and manpower.

The Bill, when it comes into effect, will require any plan to establish a nuclear power plant to be put through several stages of supervision and control. For example, if a state agency wished to construct a plant, the plan would first be scrutinised by a supervisory body that would be established by the government.

The public will also be able to oversee the performance of the supervisory body through an independent advisory board – the Nuclear Power Supervisory Council – which will be made up of experts and community leaders.

"The Council will function in ways similar to the National Commission on Human Rights. It will be established through a Presidential decree," Mr Buang said.

Plans for any changes to a nuclear plant would also have to be approved by Parliament.

Mr Buang said the Bill had placed safety as its uppermost consideration.

"The question of safety should be above any political or economic interests," he said.

He added that Parliament would have to be consulted when the government discussed the question of "sustainable storage" for the nuclear waste.

Finally, the Bill would strive to ensure that any decisions made on nuclear power plants should be in accordance with international conventions that Indonesia had ratified.