Indonesia government urged to support first nuclear power plant


Indonesian pro-nuclear organization meets Indonesia’s vice president Ma’aruf Amin on Jan. 11. (Photo: Indonesian Vice President Secretariat)

Indonesian pro-nuclear organization, the Nuclear New Energy Association (MEBNI), meets Indonesia’s vice president Ma’aruf Amin to seek for government support for the first nuclear power plant in the country. The Vice President's office has stated that they will present the opinions to President Joko Widodo for consideration.

Established in March 2023, the Nuclear New Energy Association’s primary objective is to urge the Indonesian government to construct a nuclear power plant. Arnold Soetrisnanto, the chairman of the association, highlighted that Indonesia has had similar plans since the era of founding President Ir. Soekarno, with the establishment of National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) in the 1960s. However, despite passing through seven different presidencies, Indonesia has yet to see tangible results in this regard.

Arnold hopes that the government under President Joko Widodo can issue a public statement before the end of his term in October this year. He stated, “We seek political support through the Vice President because this is a political issue. If the anti-nuclear sentiment s stirred up in society, people will outright reject it. However, from a regulatory perspective, all relevant laws and procedures are already in place.”

From last year’s United Nation Climate Summit (COP28), several countries proposed supporting a threefold increase in nuclear energy by 2050. Arnold stated that currently, there are 440 nuclear power plants operational globally. If COP28’s goals are realized, this number is expected to increase to 1200 power plants. He hopes that Indonesia can keep up and emulate countries like Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, among others, in constructing nuclear power plants.

Arnold further emphasizes the economic importance of nuclear power plants, stating, “If Indonesia aims to become a developed country in 2045, the country needs nuclear power plants to avoid power shortages and achieve industrialization, enabling the economic growth to reach 7%”. He believes that nuclear power plants have higher electricity generation efficiency compared to coal-fired power plants and aren’t susceptible due to storms.

The Operations Director of Indonesian nuclear power company, ThorCon Power Indonesia, Bob Effendi also participated in the same conference, mentioned that they have already submitted a nuclear power plant project to the government. The chosen location is a remote island in Bangka Belitung Islands, and the funds are all in place, with the possibility of groundbreaking as early as 2025. “In fact, the draft of the national energy policy is already completed, and it includes nuclear energy as one of the new energy power sources. Therefore, there’s no need for further debate on the pros and cons,” he explained.

However, concerns over safety and the storage of nuclear waste persist in Indonesia, a country prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Hence, attention is turning to Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), known as small nuclear reactors, as a potentially safer alternative. PLN’s energy subsidiary, PLN Indonesia Power (PLN IP), plans to launch the first SMR plant by 2040 with a capacity up to 462MW. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) also aims to incorporate SMRs into the New Energy and Renewable Energy (EB-ET) Law by 2040, but parliamentary approval has yet to be secured.

Herman Darnel, the member of Indonesian National Energy Council (DEN), stated that if the country truly intends to develop the nuclear energy, the government first needs to establish a Nuclear Energy Program Implementation Organization (NEPIO). This organization would be responsible for preparing and managing the development of nuclear power plants in Indonesia. However, this establishment requires an approval from Indonesia’s president. Additionally, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) promotes the formation of such organizations towards countries aspiring to develop nuclear energy.

Furthermore, the fourth debate of the Indonesian presidential election is set to take place this Sunday, January 21. The three candidate pairs will engage in debate on energy issues, with nuclear energy and renewable energy development expected to be one of the key focal points.

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