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  Channel NewsAsia 3 Feb 07
Indonesia to push ahead with nuclear plans

JAKARTA: Indonesia will pursue its plans to develop nuclear power as part of efforts to find alternative energy sources to address its growing needs, Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar has said.

Jakarta shelved atomic energy plans in 1997 in the face of mounting public opposition and the discovery and exploitation of the large Natuna gas field. But the plans were floated again in 2005 amid increasing power shortages.

"We will continue to discuss how to utilise nuclear energy, but this does not mean that we will develop it right now," the state Antara news agency quoted Witoelar as saying on Saturday.

Indonesia's nuclear plans are part of its policy to develop and diversify energy resources in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

"But for us, this has not become a priority as the government is conducting a series of endeavours to develop various other alternative sources," he said.

Witoelar said Indonesia was also developing other energy sources such as bio-fuels and wind and geothermal power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions which are blamed for global warming.

Indonesia had previously said it planned to build its first nuclear power plant on densely populated Java island by 2015. The government, however, has yet to secure investors.

The province of Gorontalo, on Sulawesi island, is considering developing a floating nuclear power plant using Russian expertise.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has backed Indonesia's plans to build nuclear plants despite opposition from environmentalists. Greenpeace says the plan poses a danger to quake-prone Indonesia and its neighbours.

Indonesia is Southeast Asia's only member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries ( OPEC), but its oil output has fallen in recent years to about one million barrels per day amid flagging investment. - AFP/so

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