RI Says It’s Ready for First Nuke Power Plant

As the government completes preliminary studies and prepares human resources to build and operate the country’s first nuclear power plant, it is keeping its options open for countries to invest in the project.

The country established the Nuclear Law in 1997 as a legal basis to build a nuclear power plant, but attempts to realize it have been hampered by environmental concerns, especially following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

A recent visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in mid-September boosted Indonesia’s confidence after the agency concluded that the country had a high level of readiness to carry out the environmentally friendly program.

The National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) said it had studied two strategic locations for the plant — in Bangka Belitung province and in Jepara, Central Java — both of which are low earthquake risk areas compared to other regions in Indonesia, also known as part of the Pacific Ring of Fire that is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis

Bangka is considered strategic to meet electricity demand for both Sumatra and Java, while Jepara is another option, should the plant be designed only to support Java.

Nuclear plants, if finally built in Jepara and Bangka, could each produce more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power.

“Nuclear power plants [PLTN] are a political decision. We will stick to the President’s decision [on the matter],” BATAN chief Djarot Sulistio Wisnubroto told The Jakarta Post.

BATAN has briefed President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo with regard to which country Indonesia should work with to establish its first nuclear power plant. The countries on the table are Russia, South Korea, France, China, the US and Japan.

BATAN has also carried out a capacity building program with Rusatom Overseas, a subsidiary of Russian state corporation Rosatom to assist the country in preparing the project.

A nuclear power plant takes around seven to 10 years to build and Indonesia risks missing its target to fulfill 19.6 percent of its total energy demand by 2025 with new and renewable energy, as recorded in the country’s national energy plan, if it fails to start building its first nuclear plant by 2017, at the latest.

Nuclear is one of several new energy options that will contribute to achieving the 19.6 percent target.

By 2025, the government hopes 50.3 percent of electricity generation will be fueled by coal, 29.4 percent by gas, 0.7 percent by petroleum-based fuel and the remaining 19.6 percent by new and renewable energy sources. “If we assume that the establishment of the PLTN will take around seven to 10 years, then the nuke decision has to be made soon,” Djarot said.

Funding will be a huge barrier for Indonesia to kick off its first nuclear project, as it is estimated that a nuclear power plant would cost around Rp 60 trillion (US$4.62 billion) to Rp 70 trillion for a 1,400-MW power plant.

Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten) deputy for permits and inspection Khoirul Huda said the IAEA had concluded that Indonesia had the adequate regulations and infrastructure to build its first nuclear power plant.

“The response [from the IAEA] is positive. It only suggests that all relevant institutions in Indonesia increase coordination and communications with regard to the nuclear plan,” Khoirul told the Post.

Bapeten said there were several technologies considered by Indonesia to materialize its nuclear plan, including a light-water reactor (LWR), advanced heavy-water reactor (AHWR) and nuclear coolant reactor.

Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) geologist Benyamin Sapiie said Bangka and Jepara were located in regions that had strong terrains, making them less prone to earthquakes. “According to current data on long-term stability of the regions, there is nothing that could potentially cause a big earthquake in those places. Jepara is located near a volcano, but there is no earthquake risk in the region,” Benyamin said.

Jonan, Arcandra Back in the Saddle

“[…] I am sure the two, once again, are figures with competence. Although I know both are stubborn, they like going into the field,” President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Friday, regarding Ignasius Jonan and Arcandra Tahar.

The President was providing the rationale for his decision to reappoint Ignasius and Arcandra as Cabinet members, less than three months after both were removed from their positions.

In a surprise move, Jokowi announced and later inducted Jonan as energy and mineral resources minister and Arcandra as his deputy.

Jonan was sacked from his position as transportation minister in the latest Cabinet shake-up in August, a move that many deemed as punishment for his penchant for putting stumbling blocks in the way of Jokowi’s policies, including the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway network construction.

Arcandra was removed from his position as energy and mineral resources minister after only 19 days in office following a controversy surrounding his US citizenship.

Although Jokowi cited Jonan and Arcandra’s professionalism and skills, traits that are essential for carrying out “sweeping reform” at the graft-ridden ministry, many considered the decision ill-advised given that second fiddle Arcandra has far more extensive knowledge on the oil and gas sector than his boss.

Jonan has zero experience in oil and gas as well as the mining sector. He gained his reputation as the no-nonsense director of state-owned railway company KAI and was credited with revamping the country’s railway services, which is believed to be one of the reasons Jokowi picked him to be transportation minister.

Jokowi told reporters after the swearing-in ceremony that his decision to pair Jonan and Arcandra “was for the sake [of bringing better] management” to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, hinting that collaboration between the two figures would be crucial.

In an apparent show of unity, Jonan and Arcandra traveled together in an official chauffeured vehicle from the State Palace to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in Central Jakarta.

Jokowi called on the public to not politicize the reappointment of Jonan and Arcandra.

“Let’s not draw it into personal issues or politics,” Jokowi said. “Although it is not an easy task, I am sure that the two, the minister and the deputy, will be able to solve current problems at the energy ministry and bring good teamwork.”

The appointment of Arcandra was made possible after Jokowi brought back the post of deputy energy and mineral resources minister, which was scrapped when he took office in October 2014.

As deputy minister, Arcandra will have no authority to issue policies, and is expected to help Jonan in drafting his future policies.

Jonan said he would rely on Arcandra in running the ministry.

“Well, I have Arcandra here,” Jonan said when asked about his ability to run the problem-prone ministry.

Arcandra, meanwhile, shrugged off the suggestion that Jokowi had tried to find ways to accommodate him in the Cabinet, saying: “The President has his own considerations when it comes to the energy ministry.”

It was apparent that the decision to reassign Jonan and Arcandra was made in haste.

They were sworn in shortly before Jokowi took off to West Kalimantan for a working visit, and visibly absent at the ceremony was Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who was on a working visit to Makassar.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who was also the interim energy minister, did not attend the ceremony.

Multiple sources claimed that Jonan and Arcandra were notified about the inauguration only hours before the ceremony took place.

In fact, Jokowi had earlier decided to appoint Jonan as the person in charge of a holding firm for state-owned companies.

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi said Jokowi had consulted a number of key players in his administration, including Kalla and Luhut, and that their absence at the inauguration was simply due to scheduling conflicts.

New Plants to Power Up Sleepless Jakarta

In an effort to cater to Greater Jakarta’s rapid development, state electricity firm PLN plans to build a number of new power plants and transmission networks worth billions of dollars in the country’s economic nexus.

Electricity demand in the area, which has seen a significant increase in the number of office buildings and residential complexes over recent years, currently stands at 10,000 megawatt (MW) per day and will increase by up to 8.5 percent every year. In particular, electricity demand for peak hours, between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., will increase by around 400 MW each year, meaning the area needs an additional 1,600 MW by 2019, according to PLN data.

To manage this, the firm will build a number of power plants with a combined output of 3,500 MW of electricity, 500 MW in the form of a gas-based facility and coal-based power plants (PLTGU) in Muara Karang, 800 MW PLTGU in Tanjung Priok, 600 MW PLTGU in Muara Tawar, all in Jakarta and 2×800 MW PLTGU Java-1 in an undecided location, all of which are scheduled for completion in 2019.

PLN regional business director for western Java area Murtaqi Syamsuddin said the power plant in Tanjung Priok would be funded by loans from a bank syndication led by Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). He, however, did not reveal the amount of the loan commitment.

“We’ll let you know later in the loan signing on Oct. 20,” he said during the groundbreaking ceremony of a 2×500 mega-volt ampere (MVA) main station in Lengkong, Banten, on Friday.

PLN has just appointed state oil and gas operator Pertamina recently to lead the mega project PLTGU Java-1 worth Rp 26 trillion (US$2 billion). Pertamina will partner with Japanese Marubeni Corporation and Sojitz Corporation.

All the power plants are part of the government’s ambition to install additional 35,000 MW of electricity supply to the current system by 2019.

The additional power will be transmitted through transmission networks known as “Jakarta Loop”, comprising main stations and transformers looping the capital city with six main powerhouses in Tambun and Cawang in Jakarta, Gandul in West Java, Lengkong in Banten, Kembangan and Duri Kosambi in Jakarta.

“There will be less black outs with a looping system because it works better in supplying electricity,” said Murtaqi.

The frequency of black outs in Greater Jakarta area is reportedly not as common these days. However, the area is still vulnerable to power outages during heavy rain.

All of the six powerhouses have capacity of 6,000 MVA and 500 kilovolts in total. To date, only Gandul and Kembangan have been fully developed.

PLN will add another 500 MVA transformer in Cawang and build the first powerhouses in Tambun and Lengkong and dozens of smaller transmitters, all worth Rp 3.3 trillion and will be funded by PLN money. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2018.