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.