ASEAN nuclear power frameworks and debates

ASEAN nuclear power frameworks and debates


No ASEAN member state currently has commercial nuclear power facilities, although there are a number of research facilities. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have formally notified the IAEA of their intention to at least seriously consider nuclear power development. The Philippines government is in consultation with the IAEA about re-opening the closed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

Government sources

Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Cebu, Philippines, 15 January 2007

WE, the Heads of State/Government of the Member Countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand, on the occasion of the Second East Asia Summit on 15 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines;

RECOGNISING the limited global reserve of fossil energy, the unstable world prices of fuel oil, the worsening problems of environment and health, and the urgent need to address global warming and climate change;

RECOGNISING that our energy needs are growing rapidly, and will necessitate large-scale investments in the coming decades;

ACKNOWLEDGING that fossil fuels underpin our economies, and will be an enduring reality for our lifetimes;

RECOGNISING that renewable energy and nuclear power will represent an increasing share of global supply;


To work closely together towards the following goals:

2. Reduce dependence on conventional fuels through intensified energy efficiency and conservation programmes, hydropower, expansion of renewable energy systems and biofuel production/utilisation, and for interested parties, civilian nuclear power;


Nuclear Energy: Addressing the Not-in-my-Backyard Syndrome, Alvin Chew and Jor-Shan Choi, RSIS Commentary No. 38/2009, 14 April 2009.

In the context of temporary storage of spent fuels, regional countries can explore the concept of time-leasing for possible sites until a permanent repository is being constructed. Such a  move would send a message to overcome the NIMBY mindset. it allows countries in the region that do not have nuclear plants to also participate in the safe storage of nuclear wastes. The technology has proven it t be safe. With the right governance and a lucrative business model, regional storage of nuclear spent fuel could become essential for ASEAN countries pursuing nuclear power development.

Underground Nuclear Power Plant: Why not?, Alvin Chew, RSIS Commentaries, 24/2009, 4 March 2009

Southeast Asia’s Nuclear Power Thrust: Putting ASEAN’s Effectiveness to the Test? Andrew Symon, Contemporary Southeast Asia, Volume 30, Number 1, April 2008, pp. 118-139.

Nuclear Power in Southeast Asia: Implications for Australia and Non-Proliferation, Andrew Symons, Lowy Institute, April 2008

ASEAN+3 nuclear safety forum kicks off in Bangkok, China Vew, 16 June 2008

Experts and officials on nuclear energy safety from the 10 ASEAN countries and its three regional partners — China, Japan and South Korea, gathered here Monday to convene the first ASEAN+3 Forum on Nuclear Energy Safety. The two-day forum, the idea of which was initiated by Thailand at last November’s East Asia Summit in Singapore, was co-hosted by Thailand and China. It is to provide an academic platform for exchanging experience and technologies in a bid to promote regional cooperation on nuclear safety issue. To address public concern about nuclear safety, a critical issue to the development of nuclear energy, Thailand and other ASEAN countries have agreed on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-free Zone Treaty. A Plan of Action adopted last year calls for the establishment of a regional nuclear safety regime.

Wang Zhongtang, Assistant Administrator of National Nuclear Safety Administration of China, in delivering a keynote speech at the opening, told Xinhua that China is very willing to share its experience and technologies with any ASEAN countries on nuclear energy safety, as it believes that “there is no national boundaries as regards nuclear safety,” and that enhancing cooperation on the issue is of benefit to countries involved, to the region as well as the whole human society. Among its experiences, China believes that “a strong independent nuclear safety authority is vital, a systematic legal system is fundamental, prudent and scientific assessment and review mechanism is important; the environmental impact monitoring system is also the key elements to convince the public confidence.”

Prospects for ASEAN Nuclear Cooperation — A Common Nuclear Facility? Alvin Chew, RSIS Commentaries, 11 December 2007.

The energy consumption of individual ASEAN nations is relatively small on a global scale. However, in considering the ASEAN region, its collective energy demands will be significant. Therefore, it is only prudent for a common nuclear facility to see to the needs of the region while at the same time, alleviating the financial risks associated with the operation of the nuclear power reactors. In addition, both the economic environment and geographical features are not entirely homogeneous throughout the ASEAN nations. A small territorial space or active seismic movements poses as impediments in the operation of a nuclear plant. As such, it is not viable for some smaller states like Singapore to operate a nuclear power plant given its sheer size. But unfavourable conditions can be overcome when considering the Southeast Asian region in totality, whereby feasible sites are more readily available. The concept of a common ASEAN nuclear power plant would also provide better justification for smaller member nations that are economically stronger to enter the partnership. Cooperation in this aspect is a critical strategy for member states. They can contribute in different kinds, all for the common goal of attaining reliable energy and reducing greenhouse emissions. Another reason for cooperation lies in the domain of technology. Apart from its inherent high cost, the element of novelty is also a primary concern for stakeholders to keep up with advanced technology.

The Memorandum of Understanding on the ASEAN Power Grid signed by ASEAN ministers serves as a reference document to facilitate energy cooperation programmes. This agreement lays the infrastructure for power to be distributed to nations within Southeast Asia. Significantly, the ministers also suggested the possible introduction of nuclear energy into the region.

Given the fact that some of its nations already decide to build nuclear reactors, the more discerning question that ASEAN needs to address is whether it would like to see a region of ten individual waste storages residing in each country, or alternatively, to cooperate with each other to safely manage a common waste facility.

Is nuclear energy a viable option for all?, Alvin Chew, , RSIS Commentaries, 111/2007, 23 October  2007.

Southeast Asia’s Looming Nuclear Power Industry , Geoffrey Gunn, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 2659, 2007

ASEAN summit declares support for nuclear, World Nuclear News, 15 January 2007

Leaders of the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have signed a declaration encouraging the use of biofuels, hydropower and nuclear power. Leaders stressed the importance of energy efficiency and agreed to monitor the security, environmental, health and safety aspects of the energy sector. Arroyo said that ASEAN nation officials would consider establishing a regional regime on nuclear safety. Of the ASEAN nations, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have expressed desires to employ nuclear energy. Indonesia has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with both Russia and South Korea, while it is discussing the deployment of 7000 MWe of nuclear capacity along its northern coast. According to Indonesian officials, a site in the Ujah Lemah Abang [sic] area of Central Java has been chosen for the first plant.

See also

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research:
Arabella Imhoff
Updated: 15 April 2009