The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Small nuclear reactors not a good deal for Indonesia

Nuclear Power and Small Modular Reactors in Indonesia: Potential and Challenges, The Nautilus Institute, Bernadette K. Cogswell, Nataliawati Siahaan, Friga Siera R, M. V. Ramana, and Richard Tanter Indonesian Institute for Energy Economics Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability April 2017 

“………CONCLUSION This report has also outlined many challenges that would have to be overcome before any SMRs are constructed in Indonesia, including a lack of support for nuclear power at the highest (and lower) political levels, public opposition to nuclear power, the absence of tested SMR designs, and the higher electricity generation costs associated with SMR technology. There are also legislative regulations that could become obstacles for specific technologies, such as floating power plants, and the model of SMR construction that involve fabrication of the bulk of the reactor in factories

The first factor, the absence of widespread and sustained political support, has been the major roadblock for the establishment of nuclear power in general. The Indonesian nuclear establishment has been trying to set up nuclear power plants since the 1970s but has so far not managed to persuade government leaders. Indeed, in December 2015, then Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said announced publicly that the government had concluded that “this is not the time to build up nuclear power capacity. We still have many alternatives and we do not need to raise any controversies”.155 Although this decision might be revised in the future, it testifies to lack of broad-based political support. Given this context, those advocating constructing SMRs in a country like Indonesia that has no nuclear power capacity face the basic conundrum: building untested nuclear technologies that might lead to higher electricity generation costs is going to be more of a political challenge than constructing nuclear reactor designs that have been operated in other countries.

The higher electricity generation cost associated with SMRs should be seen not just in comparison with the cost of generating electricity with a large NPP but also with a range of alternatives that are available in Indonesia. Of these, the declining cost of solar photovoltaic technology is particularly relevant. Studies testify to the large potential of solar energy in Indonesia and the government has been adopting policies that promise to accelerate the construction of significant amounts of solar capacity.

The smaller power level of SMRs also implies that producing the same amount of electricity using these as opposed to large reactors would require dealing with public resistance at many more sites. Because public opposition has played a major role in stopping construction of nuclear power plants so far, constructing SMRs might be even more of a challenge than large reactors; for SMRs, the potential benefits accruing from electricity generation comes at a higher economic and social cost. As a result, it would seem that the construction of SMRs is unlikely, especially in large enough numbers to make a sizeable contribution to Indonesia’s electricity generation.


May 1, 2017 - Posted by | Indonesia, technology

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