World Environment Day Message by Lim Guan Eng in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 4th June 2009:
The Federal government should emphasize on “Fuels from Heaven” – Renewable Energy, not “Fuels from Hell” like coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy
Commemorated on June 6 yearly, World Environment Day (WED) was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. This is one of the principal vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The theme for WED 2009 is 'Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change'. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen end of this year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.
The pursuit of nuclear energy of the Federal government has raised hot debate among pro-nuclear groups and against-nuclear groups. Even former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, raised his concerns about the danger of pursuing nuclear energy and urged a rethink arguing that we do not know enough about nuclear energy to be able to manage it well.
In 26 May 2009, TNB announced that they target to commission the first nuclear power plant in Malaysia by 2025. On the same day, research and advisory provider RAM Holdings revealed that weaker demand for electricity had raised TNB’s reserve margin to above 50%. this clearly shows that the electricity has not been fully utilized, how is TNB going to justify there is a demand for the nuclear energy?
Payment for excessive reserve margins to IPPs costing TNB between RM 2.5 billion to RM 3.3 billion yearly. This year, TNB has to fork out RM500mil on top of it to pay for excess power it does not require now. It has posted a loss of RM944 milllion in the first quarter to 30 November 2008, why do we still need to spend money to build nuclear energy plant when we are paying for the excessive reserve margins?
Since there is no extra demand for electricity, TNB should scrap its nuclear power plant project.
The head of the UN atomic watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei also warned in April that the world's growing appetite for nuclear energy could lead to dangers associated with unsafe technology and weapons proliferation. In some countries there are combination of old reactors, operations that are poorly managed or underfunded and weak regulations.
The major components of Malaysia’s electricity generation mix are natural gas (60%), coal (24%), hydro (8%) and biomass (4.2%). Pulitzer Prize-winning Thomas L. Friedman tells us the importance of the green revolution in his book "Hot, Flat and Crowded” . He also cited Rochelle Lefkowitz, President of Pro-Media Communications who described coal, oil, and natural gas as that ‘fuels from hell' . These fuels from hell come from underground, are exhaustible, and emit CO2 and other pollutants when they are burned for transportation, heating and industrial use.
In contrast to what Lefkowitz calls 'fuels from heaven' -- wind, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass, and solar power. They all come from above ground, are endlessly renewable, and produce no harmful emissions.
The Federal government should emphasize on “Fuels from Heaven” – Renewable Energy, not “Fuels from Hell” like coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy.
There are huge hidden costs involved in the development of nuclear power plants. These include spiking cost of Uranium, costs of risky decommissioning, storage and handling of radioactive leakages. Vast amount of resources will have to be diverted towards the maintenance of nuclear power plants. In German, the government announced policy to phase-out the use of nuclear energy in 2000, now they are worried about how to shut down nuclear power plants safely. Above all the problems of shutting down a reactor is: How and where to dispose of the radioactive waste? Does Malaysia have the capacity and ability in dealing with these high risk issues?
The Federal Government should justify the claims that nuclear power is safe, environmentally friendly and more affordable in the long run, any Malaysian who wants a safe, environmentally friendly and affordable energy will not believe in such fallacies. Not only we should think twice the proposal of nuclear plant from nuclear industry, we should also invest more in energy efficiency measures and utilize our renewable energy sources.
DAP calls for a Renewable Energy masterplan to plan, invest and utilize more Renewable Energy sources to migrate from “fuels of hell” to “fuels from heaven”. This will not only enable Malaysia to go green but also healthier and safer.
* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General & Penang Chief Minister; Member of Parliament for Bagan