Nuclear Energy Safety and Public Awareness: A Round Table Discussion at Public Policy Department
On April 27, a meeting with the delegation from the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia and the experts on ASEAN took place at the Department of Public Policy. The topic of the discussion was 'Nuclear Energy Safety and Public Awareness'. The participants also talked about the policy of ZOPFAN and NFZ for security & peace building and about Indonesia as an actor in ASEAN. The event was organized by HSE Public Policy Department and moderated by Vice Chair of the Department Sanjay K. Rajhans. Students of Public Policy Department took active part in the event.
The lecture is a part of the series of events taking place at HSE against the backdrop of the forthcoming Russia - ASEAN summit scheduled for May. The Public Policy Department students from Indonesia took the initiative to organize this round table discussion at a very short notice.
The high level delegation from Indonesia was comprised of the leading scholars and officials from the Republic of Indonesia led by Air Marshall Warshano and accompanied by Andrei Sutarno and Surya Wiranto. The speakers were the senior officials from the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs. This Indonesian government ministry is in charge of planning and policy coordination, as well as synchronization of policies in the fields of politics, law, and security. It oversees no less than 12 ministries and government agencies in home affairs, foreign affairs, defense, law & human rights, communication, bureaucracy reform, military, and police. Thus, it has a major role in policy formulation of these sectors. The aim of the visit was to share with students of Public Policy Department one of topical issues that is related to energy security in the emerging economy and to gain first-hand information about unique academic opportunities for prospective Indonesian students at HSE.
The question of energy security policies, in particular, nuclear energy security, was very topical in the discussion considering the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy. The discussion concerned the energy security policy for the emerging economies of the world, like Indonesia, and their increasing energy consumption demands.
The speakers talked about the increasingly important role of Indonesia as a country in the G-20, ASEAN, and other regional and global organizations. Air Marshall Wasrshano gave background information regarding the country. Indonesia as the most populous country of ASEAN and a very important member of the G20 group has seen its international presence grow in the past few decades. ASEAN has emerged as one of the most vibrant and successful regional cooperation platforms and its transnational importance has been on the steady rise.
Mr. Surya Wiranto further spoke about the great cooperation prospects between the two countries and the growing interest in cooperation in different economic and security affairs. Mr. Surya Wiranto stressed that Indonesian foreign policy principle is 'free and active'. Indonesia has always been promoting peace in South East Asia by signing the declaration of Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) and The Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) together with the 10 member countries of ASEAN.
However, the large growing population of Indonesia (250 millions) combined with a decrease in oil and gas production has forced Indonesia to look for alternative sources of energy. Therefore, Indonesia is planning to develop nuclear energy while at the same time maintaining its position as a nuclear weapon-free country. Indonesian government considers nuclear energy due to its efficiency, vast amount of power produced and the relatively low cost of production (long-term). Moreover, Indonesia owns Uranium and Thorium resources that are needed for nuclear power plants. Mr Wiranto mentioned that Indonesia considers Russia as strategic partner due to cooperation in defense. In recent years, Indonesia has purchased several Sukhoi combat aircraft and is also planning to buy Russian submarines in order to strengthen its maritime defense. Russia has also invested in the first ever railway construction in the less developed island of Kalimantan (Borneo). The latest cooperation between Indonesia and Russia is between Rosatom and BATAN (Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency) to develop Indonesia’s first nuclear power plant.
Sanjay K. Rajhans encouraged the discussion of the cost benefit angle of nuclear power stressing that there exists a major safety dilemma as there is no complete safety guarantee for nuclear power. From the Chernobyl tragedy 30 years ago to the latest Fukushima nuclear disaster, people around the world are concerned about its safety. Nuclear energy has two aspects: technological and human. Due to the high risk nature of nuclear energy, public support is a must if a country wants to have nuclear power. The environmental and social impact of nuclear power can be enormous for people. That is why nuclear energy policy should also be accompanied by public awareness programme in the form of citizen engagement. Once the issue becomes the main topic of discussion among students, scholars, experts and other stakeholders, it will get the level of transparency and clarity needed for the public to support and remain more engaged with the safety hazards.
At the end of the event, the high delegations were presented the Public Policy Department’s publication on the Civil Society of the BRICS countries. In exchange the souvenir from the Ministry was accepted by Prof Sanjay K. Rajhans on behalf of the Public Policy Department. The meeting ended on a very positive note with the assurances from both sides to continue their communication for further consolidation of cooperation between Embassy of Indonesia and Higher School of Economics.
Prepared by Muchammad Isa