By Terh Yee Jiunn
The Fukushima incident of 2011 should not be the reason to shy away from the nuclear sector, said Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) during a roundtable at SIEW 2017.
“There is no system in the world that is completely ‘fail-safe’,” he said, while underlining the importance of a strong safety and security culture.
Dr Claude Guet, Senior Advisor to the CEO of CEA (French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) added that despite the rapid growth of renewables such as solar and wind, they would not be sufficient to meet Asia’s equally rapid growing energy demand.
This was the consensus of the roundtable participants who shared that nuclear energy will remain an important part of the global fuel mix for electricity.
Strengthening Nuclear Safety and Security in Asia
The majority of past nuclear incidents occurred because of organisational and management issues, rather than technical. Dr Su Jin Jung, Manager of Strategy and Performance Department, Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS), said that Korea has drawn on these lessons and put more attention into ensuring a strong safety and security culture.
For example, Dr Jung shared that safety culture inspections are conducted on utilities to identify areas for improvement. Radiation workers at KINS are also required to attend safety courses when renewing their licenses.
Closer to Southeast Asia, countries have recognised the need to work together to foster nuclear safety and security.
The ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM) was established in 2011 to strengthen the nuclear safety, security, and safeguards within the ASEAN community.
In 2016, ASEANTOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) initiated the first regional Technical Cooperation project on “Supporting Regional Nuclear Emergency Preparedness and Response”.
However, multiple challenges remain, said Dr Phiphat Phruksarojanakun, Head of International Cooperation, Office of Atoms for Peace, Thailand. These include the different level of technical expertise within member states and their nuclear priorities.