Friday, February 29, 2008


Villagers and others opposed to the construction of Indonesia's first nuclear plant in the foothills of Mount Muria, a dormant volcano on the north coast of Java gathered by the thousands on Thursday in protest.

Government officials have consistently brushed away complaints about the region's unstable tectonics and the project's high costs, contending that the country can ill-afford to forgo atomic energy. Environmentalists warn that on top of frequent earthquakes and occasional tsunamis, Indonesia has more environmentally sound sources of alternative power to chose from, including geothermals and natural gas.

The Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) says the quake that occurred in the Java Sea last August, which reached 7 on the Richter scale, confirms that the area is unsuitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant. The organization argues the planned development of a nuclear power plant in Semenanjung Muria, Central Java will increase the disaster risk because there are almost no areas in Indonesia that are free of earthquakes.

The nuclear radiation leakage accident at the Japanese Kashizawaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant last July WAHLI again demonstrates that there is no nuclear power plant design that can overcome natural phenomena such as earthquakes. WALHI contends, "It was lucky that there was not worse radiation leakage, since the majority of the nuclear reactor complex had been shut down for inspections by the Japanese nuclear safety agency due to some previous instances where reactor safety data had been falsified by TEPCO. If not for this, a major disaster could have occurred with regional impacts."

"What happened in Japan is a warning," said Dian Abraham, coordinator of Manusia, an anti-nuclear lobby in Jakarta. "It could happen here. The government should stop their plans now."

"Under the area where the power plant is planned there is now a minor fracture that didn't exist in the 1990s," says Nur Hidayati, the Jakarta-based climate and energy coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "Indonesia has a lot of earthquakes. If a nuclear power plant is built here, the dangers will increase."

Clearly the villagers around the site of the proposed plant agree.

'Members of the Balong village community oppose the nuclear power plant!' reads a huge anti-nuclear banner fixed at the village's entrance gate.

"I am afraid the power plant will explode, and even if it doesn't explode, radiation could still leak," Sutrisno, a 59-year-old schoolmaster whose wooden home is one and a half kilometers, or one mile, from the planned power plant told the International Herald Tribune not long ago.

Java, it must be pointed out, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

However, it isn't only on Java people are concerned.

Australian critics fear a catastrophic accident would have a major impact on nearby countries, of which they are one.

Clive Hamilton, an Australian who has just spent two years as a senior economic and environmental adviser to the National Planning Agency in Jakarta, said one of his main concerns was that "Indonesia does not, at the moment, have the technical expertise to safely operate nuclear power plants."

He said Indonesia was "an extremely unstable area geographically."

If nuclear power were developed there, he added, then Australia and other nearby countries, particularly Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Papua New Guinea, "should be very concerned because there is the potential of a major accident."

Despite fears of accidents and the opposition of environmental groups several Southeast Asian governments have either firm plans to develop nuclear power stations in the coming decade or have begun studies into its potential.
The following is from the Jakarta Post.

Locals reject nuclear project on Mount Muria

Up to 3,000 villagers staged a rally in Jepara, Central Java, (which if you look really close is the red dot on the accompanying map) Thursday to oppose the planned construction of a nuclear power plant on the regency's Mount Moria.

The protesters, mostly residents of Balong village in the Kembang subdistrict, as well as students and activists, carried protest posters and banners.

They converged at a building in the middle of a sugar cane plantation which served as the National Atomic Energy Agency's Ujung Lemah Abang Nuclear Power Station Safety and Research observation facility.

They stopped at the building entrance and addressed the crowd on the risks associated with nuclear power and later worked together to form the foundation of a concrete wall.

"This is our fourth protest since last year," rally coordinator Firdaus Rahmadi told The Jakarta Post at the site on Thursday.

"We only sealed the building symbolically in the three earlier demonstrations, but now we are really sealing it with a concrete wall."

He said despite the protests, the government had not been decisive on the construction of the power station, which he said it had planned since the 1980s.

"The presence of the office, built in 1995, indicates that the government will resume with its plan," Firdaus said.

"We have decided to oppose it due to the risks it would pose to our lives.

"We also demand the central government to revoke the law pertaining to nuclear energy enacted in 1997," he said.

The idea on the nuclear power plant came from former vice President B.J. Habibie when he was minister for research and technology in the 1990s and it won support from former president Soeharto.

The plan was closely linked with the construction of the large Kedung Ombo dam, but the project was stopped after it met with strong opposition both at home and overseas.

Bricklayers and residents worked hard to erect the wall which measured around eight meters in length.

Trucks carrying sand, bricks, cement and water were going back and forth at the site, right in front of security guards.

Mufid Busyairi, a legislator of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and member of the agriculture and forestry affairs commission at the House of Representatives, was picked to lay the wall's corner stone, which was followed-up by Balong village officials and residents.

"I purposely came here to observe the public's aspirations firsthand," Mufid said.

A number of House members have reportedly decided to oppose the planned nuclear power station.

Those who come from the Jepara electoral district have long-since opposed it.

"But the House is split over the plan," Mufid said.

Balong village chief Suwanto was compelled to engage in the brick-laying activity because residents urged all village officials to take part.

"I'm in the middle. I can only follow the wishes of the people," Suwanto said.

"But on the other hand I also wish they could comply with the existing law.

"I'm grateful they have never resorted to anarchy during the series of protests so far," he said.

A philosophy student at the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Darul Hasyimfath, said he was surprised to see House members at the protest in favor with the people.

"Don't be a hero in this issue," he said,

"Even we students, who had earlier informed people of the hazards of nuclear energy, feel that we haven't done anything special.

"The local residents are actually the champions.

"They fight for the cause.

"The House members are just politicians.

"Now they may likely say they oppose the program, but they will be in favor later when the political course shifts," Darul said.

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