The Singapore government’s International Advisory Panel on Energy has recommended consideration of nuclear energy as part of the island state’s energy mix. Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has backed the proposal. Singapore analysts have raised the desirability of ASEAN-wide nuclear energy standards to address what they describe as limitations in the safety cultures of neighbouring countries considering nuclear power, such as Indonesia.
Ensuring Energy Resilience and Sustainable Growth, ESC SUBCOMMITTEE, Singapore Government, January 2010 [PDF, 476KB]
Recommendation #3: Study the feasibility of the nuclear energy option and develop expertise in nuclear energy technologies:
While there is no immediate or near term need, Singapore should begin studying the possibility and feasibility of nuclear energy as an option for the longer term, particularly with regard to safety, technical factors and economic viability. This is because the process of develop-ing nuclear energy, if deemed feasible, is likely to take at least 15 years. At the same time, developing expertise in the evolving nuclear energy technologies will have economic spin-offs and applications in fields such as research and nuclear medicine.
Energy for Growth, Ministry of Trade and Industry, November 2007
Concerns over energy security, high fossil fuel prices and carbon emissions have also brought about a renewed interest in nuclear energy, including in Asia. Nuclear energy is a proven technology for power generation. Depending on the cost of construction and financing, nuclear power may also be comparable to gas-fired generation in terms of cost-competitiveness. However, nuclear power also brings with it the attendant concerns of nuclear proliferation, safety and nuclear waste disposal.
For Singapore, there are also practical challenges to fuel diversification, due to our limited energy options. Hydro, geothermal and wind power are not available in Singapore. Due to our small size and high population density, nuclear power is not feasible.
Nuclear power is an important source of energy in many countries. It is a very low carbon energy source because the fission process does not release CO2. Depending on the cost of financing, nuclear power can be cost-competitive with coal and natural gas despite its much higher upfront cost. International guidelines recommend that nuclear power stations be sited a distance away from population centres. Given Singapore’s limited land area and high population density, nuclear power is therefore not feasible. The need for a long-term solution for nuclear waste disposal is another challenge.
Nuclear Option in Singapore, Leonard Lim, Straits Times 7 February 2010
Mr S. Iswaran, the Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said last Wednesday that nuclear energy is ‘not imminent’, not even within the next five to 10 years.But what is clear, in the recommendation by the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC), and in the Government’s view, is that it is time to conduct feasibility studies. For one, advances in technology are addressing some of the ‘minus’ issues like safety and spent fuel disposal.
Lee Kuan Yew ponders nuclear energy option, Business Times, 20 May 2009
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said as much yesterday when he described nuclear energy as a realistic, viable alternative to oil and gas for producing electricity. The stumbling block, however, is that even if the decision was made eventually to build a nuclear power station, the densely populated and compact Republic lacks the minimum safety distance required for evacuation in case of a fallout. Separately, Mr Lee also said that Singapore would eventually be “forced to cooperate” with its neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, in this alternative energy effort. “If we all understand the complexity and the immensity of the problems the world faces, and what we will face in South-east Asia, then we should have a common pipeline and common grid so that (the energy) is transferable.” On Monday, members of the high-powered International Advisory Panel on Energy, which met for the first time, proposed that nuclear power could form part of Singapore’s evolving energy strategy. This suggestion, among others, is already being studied by the government.
, Alvin Chew, RSIS Commentaries, 24/2009, 4 March 2009
Singapore now does not rule out the option of using nuclear energy as part of its energy diversification strategy. Recently, it has floated the possibility of an underground nuclear reactor, as the constraint of a 30km hazard zone by international standards could make it unviable to have its own above ground nuclear power plant. For a land scarce nation like Singapore, the trend of building underground facilities will free up considerable land space.
Indonesia: From Energy Security to Social Security, Alvin Chew, RSIS Commentaries, 73/2008, 30 June 2008.