LOWY INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY 31 Bligh Street Sydney NSW 2000 Tel: +61 2 8238 9000 Fax: +61 2 8238 9005 www.lowyinstitute.org
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Interest in nuclear power is rising in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is set to lead the way, followed by Vietnam, Thailand, and potentially the Philippines and Malaysia. But nuclear power development in the region faces questions about its economics and safety, as well as nuclear weapons non-proliferation. A key issue is whether countries will embark on sensitive segments of the fuel cycle. Approaches to help allay such concerns include international fuel supply mechanisms and the possibility of a co-operative approach to nuclear power development within ASEAN.
Southeast Asia’s nuclear energy aspirations connect with Australia’s role as a major world uranium supplier. Australia will also want to ensure that nuclear power in the region develops safely and in a context of international co-operation. This could involve using existing frameworks for technical assistance as well as greater attention in high-level regional forums such as the East Asia Summit.
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Nuclear power is emerging as an additional and significant energy source in Southeast Asia to meet very large increases in power supply required over the medium to longer term. Indonesia is set to lead the way with a first plant planned to be in operation by 2016/17 followed by Vietnam in 2020. These could be the precursors to a much greater commitment to nuclear power generation. The main reason, as with elsewhere in the world, is the potential for nuclear to provide additional energy security in the face of fossil fuels’ rising costs and possible supply restrictions in the longer term. Less pressing in the Southeast Asian context is nuclear power as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emission growth, but longer term that could well be an important factor. Many questions and issues about nuclear power development face governments in the region. There are concerns about its economics, environmental impact and safety, and security implications in terms of weapons proliferation and terrorism. Indonesia and Vietnam, those countries most advanced in their plans, have acknowledged these concerns and have been strengthening their legal, management and human resources capabilities in preparation for nuclear power. But much more needs to be done by policy-makers and planners in the region. Certainly, there are signs of growing public fears about nuclear power that governments will have to address. Nuclear energy development in Southeast Asia will touch directly on...