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  Business Times 7 Sep 07
Asean needs nuclear safety commission
By Matthew Phan

NUCLEAR energy could be a 'dangerous easy fix' in countries with no proven record of managing nuclear plants, National Environment Agency chairman Simon Tay said yesterday.

With Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand planning to build nuclear plants, Singapore has requested that Asean set up a nuclear safety commission.

Mr Tay told BT from Australia, where he is at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, that there is a difference between long-established nuclear programmes in countries with good safety records and new programmes in countries with no proven record in design, maintenance or disposal of radioactive waste.

'It's like opening a Pandora's box', he said.

'Climate change makes us think long-term, and short-term solutions can go the wrong route. Nuclear plants are supposed to last for decades and their maintenance in countries with poor records or earthquake-prone areas should be taken into consideration.'

Mr Tay also said that countries can seek to share nuclear know-how via Apec, but that Apec is not the place to negotiate contentious multilateral issues like nuclear energy or greenhouse gas cuts.

A Bloomberg report on Tuesday said Mr Tay, with other analysts at Apec, had criticised plans by US President George Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard to sign a joint nuclear energy action plan to address climate change.

Mr Tay told BT yesterday that Apec has every right to put climate change on the agenda, but that as a platform for sharing technology or ideas, Apec is a forum for giving momentum to cooperation, not for heavy negotiation.

That should be left to a separate meeting on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, in Bali later this year, Mr Tay said.

But leaders at Apec could discuss issues that simultaneously advance economic and environmental agendas, such as how to cut tariffs on trade in 'green' goods and services.

Singapore is 'quite serious' about unrolling its own 'government energy plan' later this year, Mr Tay said. 'We have put energy and climate change on to the Asean agenda and Singapore must undoubtedly lead by example.'


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