Second Minister S Iswaran’s reply to Parliament Question on Nuclear Energy Pre-feasibility Study in Singapore [Parliament Q&A]
Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, Member for Nee Soon GRC: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) whether he can provide an update on the nuclear energy pre-feasibility study in Singapore; and (b) whether there are plans to engage countries in the region to prevent or respond to nuclear incidents.
Oral reply by Mr S Iswaran, Second Minister for Trade and Industry
1. In 2010, I announced in Parliament that Singapore would embark on a pre-feasibility study on nuclear energy. Singapore relies heavily on imported energy. This pre-feasibility study was part of our efforts to continually explore all options to overcome our energy constraints, and enhance our energy security. The study was, thus, a preliminary step to assess the feasibility of nuclear energy as an option to meet Singapore’s long-term energy needs.
2. Mr Speaker Sir, the nuclear energy pre-feasibility study has been concluded. This deliberate and extensive two-year process involved several government agencies, external consultants and independent expert advisers. We sought a deeper understanding of the potential and limitations of current and emerging nuclear energy technologies from Singapore’s perspective, with safety being of paramount importance.
3. The study has concluded that nuclear energy technologies presently available are not yet suitable for deployment in Singapore. The latest designs of nuclear power plants are much safer than older designs which remain in use in many countries. However, the risks to Singapore, given that we are small and dense, still outweigh the benefits at this point. As we are planning for the very long term and not for our immediate energy needs, we prefer to wait for technology and safety to improve further before reconsidering our options. Over time, nuclear power plants with safer and more robust designs will be developed.
4. Meanwhile, nuclear energy continues to be part of the energy mix for many countries. In fact, two-thirds of the nuclear power plants under construction today are in Asia, with some being planned in Southeast Asia.
5. In view of these developments, Singapore needs to continue to monitor the progress of nuclear energy technologies, and to strengthen our capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology. It is also important to track related developments in areas such as emergency response and radioactive waste disposal. Then we can assess the implications of evolving nuclear energy technologies and regional nuclear energy developments for Singapore. This will also strengthen our operational preparedness and our existing capabilities in radiation and incident response.
6. We will, therefore, support research in relevant areas of nuclear science and engineering, and train a pool of scientists and experts through education programmes in local and overseas universities. We will also play an active role in global and regional cooperation on nuclear safety. Singapore currently participates in several platforms to facilitate cooperation on nuclear energy and safety. For example, we are a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and are working closely with other member countries on implementing the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. Through such platforms, we can foster greater collaboration to share best practices in nuclear safety, coordinate emergency planning and response, jointly develop human resources, and discuss the implications of regional and global developments.
7. Mr Speaker Sir, in summary, nuclear energy technologies presently available are not yet suitable for deployment in Singapore. However, Singapore must continue to monitor developments and will develop capabilities – to prepare for the growth of nuclear energy in the region; to contribute actively to global and regional nuclear safety efforts; and to keep abreast of progress in nuclear energy technologies so as to keep our options open for the future.