On the 24th of April 2019, #Liberasi Founder and Chief Coordinator, Arveent Srirangan Kathirtchelvan, joined by Dr. Mohd Syukri Yahya from the Malaysian Nuclear Society (MNS) and Datin Zarina Masood from Women In Nuclear Malaysia (WiN) visited the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) to hand over a memorandum entitled ‘Memorandum Supporting Nuclear Power Incorporation in the Malaysian Energy Mix’. The full text of the memorandum can be found here or through the button on the front page of the Liberasi website.
The delegation was received by Mr. Mohd Najeeb Abdullah, the Senior Private Secretary to the MESTECC Minister YBM Yeo Bee Yin, and Dr. Gary Willam Theseira, a Special Functions Officer to the Minister. Prior to the handover of the memorandum, a short discussion was had between both parties, covering a variety of points relevant to the Malaysian energy mix and the viability of nuclear power to be included into it.
Whilst it was appreciated for the discussion to be had, Liberasi noted the arguments brought forth by the ministry were either old-fashioned or insufficient to deny nuclear power’s inclusion. Amongst the points to note was the fact that there is a gap between expert knowledge and public awareness. In no uncertain terms, Liberasi stressed that educating the public is a responsibility that must be undertaken and should not be used to reject nuclear power. In this endeavour, Liberasi made it clear that it is willing to help in the efforts to educate the masses if MESTECC is sincere in doing so but even without the ministry’s collaboration, Liberasi will still continue disseminating facts-based information to the masses.
Another point of contention was the impression that there is a waiting period for nuclear power technologies to be, and we quote one of the ministry’s officials, ‘dumber than dumb safe’. With due respect, Liberasi, with Dr. Syukri and Datin Zarina, disagreed as nuclear power is already the safest amongst all electricity generating technologies. It was pointed out that, all things considered, per 1000 terawatt hour (TWh), nuclear power results in 90 deaths whereas solar power results in over 400. MESTECC was also advised to not champion technologies that result in more deaths overall to avoid catastrophes for which safety measures are already plentiful.
One of the officials then asked Datin Zarina about Malaysia’s workforce readiness to undertake nuclear power plants. Datin Zarina, who has more than 30 years of experience in the field, replied that Malaysian experts are world-renown and many international organisations either come to Malaysia to learn from them or invite these experts overseas to train them in multiple aspects of nuclear power. It was also shared that Malaysia is considered exemplary in having the Malaysian Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC) and that going into nuclear power would be with our eyes open.
On the subject of whether nuclear power is to be phased out, MESTECC shared that all options are still on the table. However, Liberasi notes that there are many instances where YBM Yeo Bee Yin has stated that there is an intention to close the MNPC. If this is true, it will effectively kill the chances of nuclear power being in the energy mix for Malaysia as 11 years of expertise will be lost, especially since the MNPC has done a lot of preliminary work that exemplifies Malaysia for nuclear power. Moreover, the fate of local nuclear engineering students is also in question as this move might kill an industry they are passionate about.
Arveent, Dr. Syukri and Datin Zarina concluded that nuclear power is the safest and most environmentally friendly technology even compared to renewable power. In fact, it was mentioned that should the public be well educated on the disadvantages of solar photovoltaics, from huge land use to resource depletion and toxicity, they will be more understanding of nuclear power as a viable source of electricity. In fact, other activities such as desalination of sea water and industrial heating can be performed through utilising nuclear power plants as well.
Despite this, it was noted that the resolve MESTECC has shown with regards to lowering plastic usage, championing energy efficiency and handling the Sungai Kim-Kim issue recently was duly appreciated. Hence, Liberasi assured MESTECC that it respected MESTECC as an organisation that values scientific facts and will base their direction on them. It is hoped that MESTECC would see sense and return nuclear power into the conversation of being a part of the Malaysian energy mix.
Outside of the ministry, however, Liberasi resolves to champion nuclear power as a civil movement. Liberasi has planned to call a roundtable to invite nuclear power proponents to gather and do advocacy work through multiple streams. In fact, on his own initiative, Arveent has approached the Parti Sosialis Malaysia and handed over copies of the memorandum to continue his advocacy on that front as well, as the barriers to nuclear power adoption are mainly political. It is hoped that this advocacy work will bear fruit soon.
Says Arveent, “I’d like to encourage the rakyat to please not hesitate to contact us if you would like to be part of our struggle. We could always use more boots on the ground in combating unfair negative perception on nuclear power and pave the way to a better, more sustainable, more reliable energy future for Malaysia.”