The Battle towards
Indonesian First Commercial Nuclear Reactor

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@Dian Abraham (MANUSIA)


The Indonesian nuke story began early in the Cold War era when the President Soekarno initiated the establishment of the State Committee for Radioactivity Research in 1954. The task of the Committee is to examine the possibility as well as the impact of nuclear fallout from the nuclear bomb test series in Pacific Ocean. The committee was replaced by Atomic Energy Council in 1958 until the introduction of the Act on Basic Stipulations of Atomic Energy in 1964. A year later, BATAN (National Atomic Energy Agency) was established whose main task is to conduct research on nuclear technology.

A few years later, in 1972, the government marked its interest in having nuclear power plant by creating the Preparatory Commission on Construction of NPP. Some institutions including NIRA (Italy) involved in the effort by selecting the best site of the Indonesian future NPPs. IAEA also helped the evaluation of the site investigation in 1988. At last, in May 1996, the feasibility study conducted by NEWJEC Inc. of Japan, concluded that Muria peninsula in Central Java be the preferred site of the twelve NPPs planned.

However, the plan was canceled in March 1997, shortly after the parliament endorsed the Nuclear Energy Bill to replace the Act of 1964, amidst widespread polemics of the controversial Bill as well as NPP Muria plan in national mass media. The reason of the cancellation was the finding of several gas sources in Natuna sea and other sources.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has already operated research reactors since 1964. The first one is in Bandung, West Java, of Triga Mark II type, with a capacity of 250 kW. It has been upgraded twice to be 2 MW. Another Triga Mark type reactor is in Yogyakarta with a capacity of 100 kW. The last reactor is in Serpong, suburb of Jakarta, with a capacity of 30 MW.

The Revival of the Commercial Reactor Plan

After the fall of Soeharto, and despite the sentiment of anti New Order regime during the so-called reform era, the nuke plan was covertly prepared by the same advocates of nuclear in BATAN and its newly-formed counterpart, Bapeten (Nuclear Regulatory Board), as well as the Ministry of Research and Technology.

Started from the plan in Madura Island, gradually the nukes plan becomes clearer. In 2004 the Minister of Research and Technology announced the revival of the plan to build nuclear power plants. Similar to the previous plan, the reason for having NPPs is the energy crisis faced by Indonesia, especially in Java and Bali. A year later, the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources confirmed the plan by issuing the Blueprint of National Energy Management 2005-2025. By the signing of Presidential Regulation no. 5 year 2006, the plan has become a final decision of the executives.

According to the new scenario, nuclear energy is classified under the category of gnew and renewable energyh. The role of this category shall increase from 0.2% in 2005 to 4.4% by 2025. Nuclear energy will share almost half of it, about 2%. The bidding for the first two plants is scheduled in 2008 and the construction will be started in 2010. By 2016, the first NPP is expected to be in operation, followed by the second and so on until 2025. The official boasted that each plant would cost 1.5 billion USD.

The Plans

Similar to the non-transparencies of the nukes plan during 1990s, the plan today is somewhat unclear. In fact, when someone talks about the Indonesian NPP plan, it almost always refers to the Muria NPP plan in Central Java. But it should be noted that actually there are other issues to distinguish from the plan in 1990s.

1. Muria NPP plan in Balong village, Jepara district, Central Java province. It is interesting to find that until last year, the government always refers to the feasibility study of NEWJEC Inc. to mention Jepara to be the site of the nuke plan. There will be four power plants with the total capacity of about 4,000 MW. Some countries have already showed interest in participating in the plan. South Korea appears to be the most serious one by signing an agreement with local company, Medco Energy, to take part in the bidding scheduled this year. Japan also offered its assistance in nuclear energy while Russia is known to have an agreement on energy with Indonesia. Meanwhile, Minister of Research and Technology, Kusmayanto Kadiman, admitted that the US and France are those among the interested parties. Besides the technology, Indonesia has secured an agreement with Australia which includes the uranium business.

2. Nuclear Desalination Plants in Madura Island, East Java province. This issue precedes the nuke plan in Muria when local people held several demonstrations against the nuke plan since about 2003. It was revealed that in 2001, the government of Indonesia signed an agreement with KAERI of South Korea as well as IAEA to conduct a Joint Preliminary Feasibility Study on Nuclear Desalination. The seawater desalination plant is probably the SMART (System Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor) type. The most cited proposed site of the two unit of 100 MW each is Sokobanah in Sampang district which is slated to operate in 2015.

3. Floating NPP plan in Gorontalo province, northern part of Sulawesi Island. In fact, this issue is little known by the public. The information is based on the local executive as well as the Russian company, Raoues. In 2006, the governor of Gorontalo claimed that they had already had an agreement with Raoues to buy a floating NPP. The capacity of the floating plant whose capacity is 90 MW. A member of local legislative said that they had approved a plan to establish three infantry headquarters to safeguard all important installations, including the floating NPP.

The problem is that there is no floating NPP exists in the world. The vendor, Russia, is still trying to build its first one. Therefore, there will be concerns of safety and proliferation as well because the plant can move easily. Besides, in domestic laws, the problem arises because nuclear issue is the authority of central government, not provinces. So, itfs impossible to let a governor deal directly with foreign countries.

4. NPP in East Kalimantan. Actually the information about this issue is not sufficient. There was news revealed last year that BATAN has already finished conducting a study to build one power reactor in East Kalimantan. Even though itfs quite surprising, but the public in Kalimantan has understood about an agreement by all four governors of Kalimantan to demand a nuclear power reactor sited in Central Kalimantan. It was decided in 2005. They concluded that Kalimantan needs electricity badly. The plant is slated to operate in 2019 with the capacity of 300 until 1.000 MW. In addition, people in Kalimantan (especially in West Kalimantan who have uranium deposit) have long been the target of campaign from the government to justify the nukes plan.

The Nuclear Decision-Making

It is mentioned above that Indonesia has already had a new Nuclear Energy Act in 1997. Based on the new Act, the government shall only need a consultation ? not approval ? with the parliament to decide on the use of NPP. There is no public participation stipulated in the Act. Then the development of commercial reactors shall be performed by a state company, cooperatives, and/or any private company.

On the other hand, when it comes to the nuclear waste, the Act stipulates that the final repository must have an approval from the parliament. The differences between these stipulations show the persistence of the government to use the Bill to justify the NPP plan.

In justifying that the consultation is gbindingh, it is stated that gthe Government shall give its utmost considerations to the comments and recommendations from the Peoplefs House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia, and the results of the consultations shall be respected and shall become the guidanceh. Recalling the campaign against the Nuclear Energy Bill during the repressive Soeharto administration, then it should be understood that some people thought that the provision on gconsultationh is somewhat a victory to the antinukers

The Justification of the Plan

As usual, the lack of energy becomes the main reason for nuclear energy. During Soeharto regime, the government heavily bombarded public on its prediction of an energy crisis in year 2000. According to a controversial study conducted by the government, Indonesia would need about 7.000 MW. Therefore, there was a need to build 12 reactors of 600 MW each. However, when the government itself declared the cancelation of the NPP Muria in March 1997, it cited the reason of the finding of energy sources. Then the idea of energy crisis became obsolete. And it did prove later that the prediction of an energy crisis in 2000 was wrong. Thus, itfs an irony to find that the so-called reformed government kept the same reason to justify the NPP plan.

Actually, the issue of lack of energy could be understood for the countries which have few energy sources. But Indonesia is another case. We still have fossil fuel energy sources as well as a bunch of renewable energy sources, such as solar, geothermal. This situation is well-understood by the advocates of nuclear energy. Then they find another reason. Nuclear energy, according to this view, must not be eliminated as a choice of alternative energy to fossil-fuel, along with renewable energies. The issue becomes ediversification of energyf. To deceive people, they create a new category to include nuclear energy in the energy sector, enew and renewable energyf.

The Opposition Movement and the Government Response

Compared to the 1990s, there is growing concern on nuclear issues.
The big difference is that today there is active participation of the general public in Central Java as well as Madura Island in showing firm opposition to the plan. Several demonstrations were held in both areas. Indeed the concern about earthquake after some problems following tsunami, earthquake, mud flow, and several transportation accidents helped raise their concern about nuclear power plant.

Apart from antinuclear or environmental NGOs which work closely in this issue, some rough groupings on the movement is as follow.

City Inhabitants

1. In general, the issue of Muria NPP has already triggered the whole people in Central Java to react. In the cities surrounding the site in Balong village, such as Jepara city, Kudus, Pati, as well as wider areas like Semarang and Salatiga, the people are very active. Students and NGOs in these cities held discussions, seminars, etc. The series of relatively big demonstration organized by MAREM which is based in Jepara city on June 5 2007 marked the start-up of the big movement in this area.

2. Some academicians from Jakarta, Central Java, and Yogyakarta issue a statement to oppose the Muria NPP last February. However, it should be noted that those academicians stress that they do not oppose NPP itself and refuse to talk about the nuclear desalination plant in Madura. They also declared publicly that they are not part of antinuclear movement. Some individuals of them clearly support the use of food irradiation.

3. At least two big opposition parties, PDI-P and PKB, support the antinuclear movement.

Local People

1. Since their problem arose first in this decade, the Madurese were the first to raise their concern over the desalination reactor. In 2004, students in those areas had a hunger strike to pressure the government to cancel its plan. So far, AM2PN is the only organization which can be regarded as the representative of the Madurese. They work closely with the Sokobanah villagers. In addition, religious leaders are actually very important to the people and they lead their people to oppose the plan.

Actually there is a big step in Balong village, the site of the proposed Muria NPP which is precisely in Ujung Lemahabang, after some student activists from Yogyakarta came to live with them since mid last year. With the help of those students, local people of Balong village gradually organize themselves. They formed Persatuan Masyarakat Balong (PMB, the Union of Balong People) and had several demonstrations against PLTN Muria. The most notable one is the long march from their village to Jepara city of at least more than 20 km, to send their protest message to the Minister of Research and Technology who was scheduled to be there. The long march was participated by the whole villagers of more than 3.000 people, man and woman, old and young, including babies on their mothersf arms. The other important action is the sealing of the research building of the nuclear agency, BATAN, which is located in their village, to stop the plan.

3. Meanwhile, local muslim clerics from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Indonesian biggest muslim organization, in Jepara district branch showed their support to the struggle of local people. They declared PLTN Muria as eillicitf under Islamic law. The leader, H. Nuruddin Amin works hand in hand with the students in Balong village. Eventually, they formed KRATON, a coalition of people and students against nuclear power plant.

4. Due to unclear plan in Gorontalo and East Kalimantan, only some environmental activists react against it.

Despite the optimistic of the movement, there is a weakness which is vital to the long-term movement. The antinuclear movement has no nuclear experts as well as physicians who are truly against the nuclear energy and inform the people based on their expertise.

In response to the opposition from the people, the government insists on eeducatingf the people through public seminars, debate, or school. Even they try to weaken the movement by inviting some activists to Japan and South Korea to estudy about the public acceptancef in those two countries in July 2007, just before the earthquake in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. In some extent, they also use the ganti-NPP-Muria or NIMBYh people or organization to split the movement by having them to be the speakers. By doing this, at least the general public will get the idea that those who are against the NPP plan actually do not oppose nuclear energy. Instead, some of them are open to the idea of having NPPs in the place where there is relatively free from earthquake.

The other action of the government is the campaign on the benefits of the application of nuclear energy in agriculture, such as food irradiation. In fact, Indonesia has irradiated its rice and has no labeling policy for the consumers. The advocate of nuclear energy uses this fact to show that nuclear energy is actually beneficial to ? and accepted by ? the people so that nothing to be worried about radiation. They spread this information out to the local people especially the farmers. In some ways, it succeeded in raising the general public belief on the benefit of nuclear energy.

The most important signal that the movement has a big impact to the government is the fact that the government is now refraining from mentioning which site is actually the location of future NPPs. In some way, itfs a good thing. But itfs clear that at the moment the government is playing hide and seek with the people and buying time to let the opposition movement calm down. In this case, we must prove that we will never stop fighting against this nuclear madness.

The No Nukes Asia Forum (NNAF) was held in Kashiwazaki City (Niigata Prefecture) and Tokyo from 28 June to 1 July 2008.
Nuclear energy opponents from Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand joined Japanese activists to protest their governmentsf nuclear power plans, to refute the argument that nuclear power was the answer to global warming and to call for the closure of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant.
NNAF 2008 was held in advance of the first anniversary of the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake, which rocked the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant on July 16, 2007. The plant has been shut down since the earthquake. The threat that earthquakes pose for nuclear power plants is a shared concern for several of the countries represented at NNAF 2008.