APSN Banner

Analysts question Jakarta's rush to pass n-power bill

Straits Times - March 2, 1997

Jakarta – The manner in which the nuclear-power Bill was rushed through Parliament raised doubts about the government's real intentions, analysts were quoted as saying in a newspaper report on Friday.

A nuclear-energy specialist and an environmentalist told the Indonesian Observer that the haste to get the Bill passed contradicted statements by Research and Technology Minister B. J. Habibie that the government would go nuclear only "as a last resort".

On Wednesday, the day the Bill was passed, Dr Habibie repeated the promise, saying the government would not build a nuclear plant soon.

Nuclear specialist Iwan Kurniawan and environmentalist Mas Achmad Santosa said that the new law could only have been made to legitimise the government's intention to build the plant.

Mr Iwan said it was a fact that the government, through the National Atomic Energy Agency, planned to set up the first plant next year and have it operating by the year 2004.

"If going nuclear were to be our last alternative, we should have chosen to research nuclear power simply to prepare ourselves, instead of going straight to a power-plant construction project," he said.

The government has revealed plans to construct nuclear plants near the dormant volcano Mount Muria in Jepara, Central Java.

But Mr Iwan believed there was still a chance the government would decide not to go ahead with its plan.

A power plant takes five years to build normally, and many things could happen during that period. Factors that could stop construction include a decline in the economy and political change.

The government would also have to consider its foreign loans before going ahead because it would have to buy expensive technology.

"We still have to import the fuel and the lack of skills could stop the project," he said.

Mr Mas Achmad of the Indonesia Centre for Environmental Law said that Parliament ignored public aspirations by endorsing the Bill after only 37 days of deliberation. "There should have been a chance for comments and debates," he said, adding that with the Bill in hand, government had secured all the legal requirements it needed to construct a power plant.

As for Dr Habibie's promise, he said: "It's an official statement. The law doesn't mention nuclear as the last energy option, does it?"