Malaysia nuclear plan to be delayed

Jan 15, 2013 12:00 AM

Malaysia's nuclear power plans will be delayed by the pall over the industry from Japan's atomic disaster, along with domestic anger at a controversial rare-earths plant, an official said.

The government had said in December 2010 that it planned to build two nuclear power plants to meet rising energy demand, one by 2021 and the second a year later.

But Mohamad ZamZam Jaafar, chief executive of Malaysia Nuclear Power Corp, said a feasibility study for the construction of the plants had been pushed back by six months.

"Our plan is delayed slightly," he said, adding the study might not be ready until late 2014, while construction of the first plant "may be later than 2021".

ZamZam spoke at the Nuclear Power Asia conference in the capital Kuala Lumpur, where industry figures and atomic experts have gathered to discuss the future of nuclear energy in the region.

ZamZam said the delays were due in part to the nuclear power industry's lingering public relations woes in the wake of the 2011 Japan disaster, in which a huge earthquake triggered a tsunami that knocked out a nuclear plant.

The meltdowns at Fukushima released large amounts of radiation and laid bare to the world the risks of nuclear power.

"Fukushima happened soon after we were set up. That put a damper on what we are trying to do," he told conference attendees.

He said the feasibility study was being delayed in part because authorities were unable to visit proposed sites, fearing it would spark protests.

ZamZam also cited the rare-earths processing plant built on Malaysia's east coast by Australian miner Lynas Corp, which has galvanised a nascent green movement in the Southeast Asian country.

Opponents of the plant, which began operating in recent weeks, had sought to block its opening, fearing it would lead to contamination by nuclear waste created during processing.

Lynas insists the plant is safe.

Malaysia has significant reserves of oil and gas but has mooted the nuclear plan amid fears that its fossil fuels will one day run out.

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