DEPUTY Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was reported to have said, on the sidelines of the recently concluded Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea, that there would come a time when Malaysia might turn to nuclear power.
I welcome his call to keep the nuclear energy option open for discussion.
The major concerns about nuclear power plants are their safety and, in particular, the radiation effects in the event of a leak or a meltdown like what happened in Fukushima in March last year.
Although there were no reports of deaths or cases of radiation sickness, or any detection of harmful effects from radiation on people, nor any sign of radiation doses approaching harmful levels, anti-nuclear activists are having a field time exploiting this incident to influence the public to take a hostile stance against nuclear power plants.
It will take some time for the Malaysian public, who have been influenced by exaggerated versions of the Fukushima nuclear facility incident, to accept the idea of building a nuclear power plant in the country.
Nevertheless, the government and those who believe in the peaceful use of nuclear energy should continue to engage the public on the subject to allay their fears.
The public should be informed of the sound science behind the project and the reality that we are fast running out of energy options.
The country cannot completely depend on fossil fuel, or solar power, which is at infancy level, to fuel the country's growth after 2020.
Our gas reserves are being depleted at an alarming rate. Furthermore, it is getting expensive to generate electrical power using other fossil fuels, such as coal.
The public should be warned of the dire consequences of not having enough power to meet the demands of the economic and social needs of the country. We should not be trapped in a situation similar to India.
The lack of energy source (power) is threatening to cripple India's growth.
The lack of electrical power in many parts of India is affecting the social, economic and industrial development of the country.
The lack of electricity and the frequent power cuts, which last for several hours, in certain parts of India are turning out to be a major political nightmare.
India has no choice, despite the hostile sentiments expressed by certain people, but to go ahead and build more nuclear power plants.
The risk associated with nuclear energy has been exaggerated to a point that the public has confused nuclear power plants with atomic bombs, since both work on the same principle of nuclear fission.
The nuclear power plants that are in existence today in many developed countries are safe. In fact, they are said to be much safer than the conventional energy-producing plants.
In the United States, there are more than 105 nuclear power plants in operation and several more are being built.
Americans and people of other countries are going about their lives without fear or anxiety.
Those who exaggerate the risk of nuclear power plants should take note that the coal power industry has been a major polluter of the environment, killing thousands of people annually.
In fact, it has been estimated that if we were to take the count of all the deaths caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, it will be far less compared with the number of deaths due to pollution caused by coal burning and other fossil fuel use, per year.
Despite all the negative reports about nuclear power plants, nuclear energy is, by far, the cleanest, safest and most efficient of all the major energy sources.
However, we should not rush into building a nuclear power plant.
We should allow the subject to be debated in the public and encourage those in favour and against it to express their views.
In the past, apart from matters of safety, many have raised concerns about the cost, especially the hidden costs, in building and operating a power plant.
The authorities should take note of all concerns and work with the stakeholders so that a balanced approach can be taken and, hopefully, by 2020, Malaysia's first nuclear power plant can be operational.