Indonesia Tells Rosatom, "We're not ready yet."

The Maritime Affairs Minister of Indonesia, Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, confirmed Thursday that Russian nuclear power corporation Rosatom has advanced the possibility of building a turnkey nuclear plant in the country, but he indicated the matter needed to be studied in detail before any offer would be accepted.

Rosatom Indonesia backed away from nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi generating station disaster of March 2011, but state utility PT PLN this year put nuclear power back on the list of possible power sources in its carbon emissions reduction plan that includes increasing renewable power in the archipelago from the current 13 percent to 23 percent of the country's energy mix by 2025.

In the plan meant to establish PLN's mission through 2026, the utility names nuclear power as the last resort for generation options. While that indicates a negative attitude, nuclear power was previously seen as not an option at all, meaning “last resort,” opened the door for the nuclear option, no matter how negative it may sound.

The Jakarta Post reports that the deputy chairman of Commission VII, which oversees energy issues, would like the wording changed from “last resort” to “viable option,” which is indicative of a more positive attitude. Along with other officials calling for concrete studies and a time line for a nuclear power decision, Deputy Chairman Satya W. Yudha, said “in the future we need to conduct more studies on nuclear waste management in the region.”

He also said, “We can no longer turn a blind eye toward our neighboring countries, such as Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, who have jumped on the nuclear bandwagon in their energy plans.”

Indonesia is a part of the so-termed Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a geologic circle surrounding the Pacific Ocean that is marked by the high density of volcanoes and the increased risk of seismic disturbances.

Indonesia has the most active volcanoes of any nation. However, it is also an archipelago – an island chain – which makes it a distinct target for small modular reactors, which are purportedly fail-safe and would be economically viable power sources for smaller Indonesian islands that lack their own clean power sources. Currently, half of Indonesia's power is derived from burning coal. The country, however, has signed the Paris Agreement on carbon emissions reductions and is seeking ways to honor that accord.

Indonesia has regions that are considered too high a risk of seismic activity for nuclear power, such as Bangka in Sumatra and East Kalimantan, said Minister Luhut. However, first things first. “We have told them (Rosatom) that we are not ready yet,” he said. “We need to raise public awareness, which takes time,” he told reporters after a meeting with Rosatom officials.

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