By S. Sivaselvam
Pix by Ahmad Shahiddan Saidi
BANGI, 2 Feb. 2012 - Malaysia is among the 61 countries actively seeking solutions to the two main problems facing states that are keen to have nuclear energy – safe removal and storage of the hazardous waste, as well as the availability of financing, a US Energy Department official said today.
The International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) is striving to get the commercial sector to provide reliable nuclear fuel supply services that will include removing and storing the waste, said Dr Edward McGinnis, the deputy assistant secretary for international nuclear energy policy and cooperation at the department.
The aim is to explore international nuclear fuel service arrangements – on a cradle-to-grave basis - to build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation so that countries can access nuclear energy without increasing the risks of proliferation, he said.
McGinnis was giving a public talk on the challenges and opportunities in the global use of nuclear energy at the National University of Malaysia (UKM) campus here today.
IFNEC, while urging the World Bank to study the economics and financing of nuclear power plants, is to also hold an experts-based stakeholders workshop on financing.
Malaysia is among the 30 observer countries at IFNEC, which is also working on having in place compensation for nuclear damage, as well as effective emergency management programmes.
McGinnis, who chairs the IFNEC Steering Group, said that in the wake of the nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan last year, IFNEC is emphasising even more strongly the importance of safety and security.
In supporting the safe and responsible use of nuclear energy, IFNEC provides a forum for the exchange of information and lessons learnt not only for governments and inter-governmental organisations but also with non-governmental organisations and the commercial sector.
Hence IFNEC “brings together even those who disagree” over nuclear energy, he added.
Its objective is to facilitate the development of the infrastructure needed for the use of clean, sustainable nuclear energy worldwide in a safe and secure manner, while at the same time reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation.
McGinnis took pains to stress that the involvement of the US in IFNEC is as an equal partner with fellow member countries, and that all decisions of the organisation are based on consensus.
This international cooperation is based on a “harmonised approach, and the fundamental principle is respect, respect, respect,” he said.
“Forty-three countries are taking steps to develop nuclear power, 30 countries are operating reactors and 25 countries are interested in developing nuclear power.”
The Energy Department official said the offer of US assistance in going for nuclear energy is based on the contention that other countries can benefit from the learning curve of the US and they need not have to reinvent the wheel.
According to McGinnis, there has been a 25 percent increase in the global construction of nuclear power plants since 2008, with 66 reactors under construction in 15 countries, 27 of them in China alone.
There are 154 reactors planned in 27 countries over the next eight to 10 years, worth up to US$740 billion.
All in, 331 reactors have been proposed throughout the world over the next 15 years at an estimated cost of US$1.6 trillion.
On the global nuclear liability regime or proposed Convention on Supplementary Compensation, The US Energy Department’s brief is to ensure certain basic principles of nuclear liability law are incorporated within the participating countries’ domestic laws.
Promote a common approach on compensation, the definition of nuclear damage and the jurisdiction of courts.
Address the uncertainty about potential legal liability;
Address “a significant impediment” to US nuclear suppliers participating in commercial nuclear projects outside the US; and
Provide the legal certainty necessary for undertaking civil nuclear projects and, in the event of a nuclear incident, prompt and meaningful compensation with a minimum of litigation.