BANGI, Malaysia, July 22 (UPI) -- Malaysia aims to use nuclear power as an alternative energy source by 2025, a government official said.
Nuclear policy has received the go-ahead to be implemented and the government will link up with international organizations such as the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Malaysia's Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Fadillah Yusof, the New Straits Times reported Wednesday.
Malaysia now relies on natural gas to generate 60 percent of its electricity; coal accounts for 24 percent, while hydro and biomass power account for most of the remaining sources.
Yusof said that while the initial cost for a 1,000-megawatt capacity nuclear plant in his country ranges between $1 billion and $3 billion -- about twice the amount of a coal-fired plant -- it is still cheaper than coal over the long run.
"Over time, nuclear energy is the cheapest, and environmentally friendly with no pollutants produced. Hydrogen is produced but it can be used. We only need to treat waste products after 20 years," he said.
Yusof said Malaysia would launch a public awareness campaign to dispel negative perceptions and skepticism regarding the safety of nuclear energy.
"Nuclear energy has many positive uses such as in hospitals for CT scans and in food technology," Yusof said. He pointed out that Malaysia is lagging behind its neighbors. Thailand plans to switch to nuclear power next year, Indonesia by 2017 and Vietnam by 2018.
Malaysia faces some shortcomings in its pursuit of nuclear energy, Ravi Krishnaswamy, an energy analyst for Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific in Singapore, told The Star, Malaysia's daily, in May.
The country lacks trained professionals and the capability to handle the technology and also faces possible risks in mishandling and theft of radioactive nuclear material, Krishnaswamy said.
Krishnaswamy believes that financially, a nuclear power plant is not in Malaysia's favor. Countries like India and China with huge populations and limited domestic energy, for example, can more easily justify nuclear power's expense. Such nations, he said, have the potential to generate at least 25 percent of their electricity from nuclear power and still be able to build and replace nuclear reactors every 10 years.
On June 22 Malaysia's largest power supplier, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, announced it would work with the Korea Electric Power Corp. on a nuclear pre-feasibility study.
In 1975 Malaysia's Ministry of Energy, Technology and Research introduced a policy to diversify Malaysia's power needs, including a goal that two nuclear plants would be operational by 1990. These proposals were put on the back burner during the administration of Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn.