Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nuclear Power?


Yesterday, 21st Aug 2010 I attended a forum/debate in PJ. The motion of the day was, "Nuclear Power in Malaysia - The YES' and the NOs". And what caught me laughing was, both the debaters were not originally from Malaysia.
Not that I'm anti non-Malaysians but I wonder why aren't Malaysians (which includes me) debating this? Why leave to other people?
Nevertheless, both the speakers are gentlemen who know their subjects well, both being lecturers in prominent IPTAs and researchers of their own.

Since my family will want to avoid me travelling alone on my own, I dragged my 14 y.o brother along. Lucky enough, he didn't fall asleep during the debate, in fact he understood the argument and discussed with me during our journey home.
This was the first time I went for a public debate like this and I actually enjoyed it! Both speakers presented their arguments, with the pro-nuclear conquered the stage first.

When Q&A session were opened to members of the floor, some audience posed their questions, while some stole the limelight, becoming the "guest speaker". There were more opinions than questions from the audience which, in my opinion should not be the case in a debate. But, if that i.e opinions and comments from the audience was what the organiser hoped, then they succeeded. There were also, useful opinions that gave me new infos into the matter.

The Pro Nuclear speaker (Mr Mohd Peter Davis)' main argument was any other alternative power sources are unreliable, unable to generate enough power to sustain the usage in Malaysia. He emphasised that if Malaysia were to depend on solar energy, we will need to install a solar power plant as big as Perlis + Penang + half of Negeri Sembilan, while nuclear power plant needs much less space. And he pointed out that with the dependance on solar power, Malaysians can only get 8 hours of electricity in a sunny day while only 4 hours in a rainy day.

He rejected biomass because according to him, that's a futile way of generating electricity. Using human's food (sugarcane) to generate electricity for human.
However, he did not touch at all on the fact that nuclear power is a potentially lethal source of power. Since the world have heard of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, resulting in the death of hundred thousands of people and affecting the lives of the people nearby and even their new generations, I wonder why aren't he refuting the danger of this power source or at least say that it's worth it.

Just as an information, I went there holding an almost neutral flag. I know that nuclear brings a lot of destruction to us mankind, but at the same time, nuclear fission is also a good way of generating greater quantity of power. And I had never given the topic any further thoughts. It's certainly not one topic that I must think about everyday. And that was the reason I was ready to hear the points of both parties. My mother had always grumbled why aren't Malaysia putting enough effort to develop solar energy. We boast as a tropical country with equal periods of day and night. We're blessed with sunlight 12 hours a day, why aren't we using that? Why must we insist on following the West? They have not enough sunlight, thus they must make do what they have, be it wind or nuclear. We have FREE source shining our days everyday, and we refused to use that?

The Anti Nuclear speaker (Mr Michael Allan) touched heavily on the danger of nuclear power, and how it'll affect not only the lives of the people dealing with it, but also their descendants force to bear marked genetic deformities. Not only that, using nuclear power as the power source in Malaysia will only make the rich people richer, since they are the ones promoting the usage of nuclear power.

We all know Marie Curie died of aplastic anaemia, no doubt due to the amount of radioactive substances she unknowingly exposed herself to. That, is a valid proof of the danger of nuclear power.

When the audience were posing questions and opinions, I actually had some Qs to ask Mr Peter Davis (pro nuclear) but I can't find the courage to raise my hand and ask. I dont think I can stand the tension of all eyes on the floor staring at me waiting for me to speak. That will be too overwhelming for me to handle and I might just lose my voice all of a sudden, or even forgot that I can actually speak English. So, I did not ask anything, merely listening to other people and laugh where appropriate.

The questions I wanted to ask Mr Davis were:

1) In his opinion, can Malaysia afford to invest in the development of nuclear power? We aren't blessed with natural source of uranium. Aeronautic field sounded promising years ago, when Malaysia started sending own satellites outspace but now, they are finding it hard to sustain the industry. The govt could not afford the development of the technology, and at the same time we have to compete with bigger powers that have established their aeronautic industry. Will nuclear industry in Malaysia face the same fate? Started and then unable to progress? By then it'll be too late as we can't just stop the industry, we have the dangerous waste products to be disposed, or at least contained until appropriate measures to dispose them are found.

2) IF Malaysia have the capacity to develop nuclear power, it's not like we'll be able to use it in the next 5 years. We need a lot of time just to build a safe nuclear power plant. 50 years ago Korea was at a lower stage than us but since they develop nuclear energy, they are now better than us. That will mean we might need at least 30-40 yrs to be a developed nuclear country. What then make him think that in that same 30-40yrs, solar energy cannot be developed? Surely with more research, the area needed for solar power plant will decrease from 2.5 states to maybe .5 state, or just as big as a water dam? After all, we once had big computer monitors, then flat screens, then notebooks, netbooks and now come iPads as small as 1 feet. As time passes and technology advances, size can be reduced. Is there anything that he knows that make him so sure that solar energy is a definitely useless and incapable power source? Just like he suggested so that we adapt the nuclear technology Korea is using now, perhaps in 30, 40 or 50 yrs later, some other countries might use Malaysia as an example, and adapt the solar technology we're using. Why must we follow people, but not pioneering our own industry since we have the source?

3) Since he did not at all touch the incidents and danger of nuclear power resulting in deaths of millions (I think) people so far, in his opinion do the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the danger? Why? He agrees or not that nuclear power is dangerous?

But, neither of these Qs escaped my mouth.
They merely got stucked in my mind.
Perhaps I should pluck my courage other time.

Anyway, I think this post is long enough.
Happy Ramadhan!

p/s: I went home waving the anti-nuclear flag. And so did my brother. Since Malaysia has abundant other resources, let's use them first before jumping into a dangerous field, shouldn't we?


Well Wisher said...

You could e-mail him and ask him to respond on this blog. e-mail comes from his website

Well Wisher...

Well Wisher said...

Here's an fantastic idea from Scott Brusaw and his wife...

The space for solar is already there.

Well Wisher...