Lim Soon Heng, managing director of Floating Solutions LLP, suggested a floating nuclear power plant for Singapore. He wrote his thoughts on the subject as an opinion in The Straits Times on 15 March.
Mr Lim pointed that natural gas is expensive and pollutive. It needs regular replenishment and requires additional land and kilometres of pipelines. And carbon sequestration looms in the future.
Recalling the accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, Mr Lim wrote that although they were indeed tragic they provided engineers with valuable lessons which can prevent future accidents.
He pointed that renewable energy can never meet Singapore's base load and it is only a matter of time before fossil fuels run out.
“The way I see it, there is only one option to future-proof our economy: Go nuclear,” he declared.
“I am convinced that floating assets unrelated to oil and gas are the new horizon and a new area to develop. In particular, floating nuclear power plants are a disruptive technology worthy of the challenge.” He said at the end of his writing.
However, a lot of Singaporeans do not agree with him, as shown by most of the more than 170 comments on the news on The Straits Times Facebook post when this article is made.
Some comments were considerable detailed in comparison to what you would normally see in a Facebook comment thread.
One such comments come from a netizen, Teow Loo Shuin who asked fellow commenters to consider some points on the article.
1. What is the author's source when he commented that Singapore is a significant polluter on a per capital basis?
2. Natural gas is the least pollutive among all other fossil fuels.
3. Regasification and tanks are only needed for LNG, most of imported gas from neighbouring countries are compressed natural gas.
4. Yes, based on some scientific studies, genetic mutation, which give rise to genetic diversity maybe due to natural radiation. However we don't need anymore of it than necessary.
5. The commonly used unit is millisievert (mSv) instead of microsievert. Yes the recommended annual safe dose is 100 mSv or 100,000 microsievert. In comparison a single CT scan give 10 to 16 mSv. By stating such a large figure of 100,000 may give the impression that one need receive a large radiation dosage without harm.
6. Max radiation level record at Fukushima is 400 mSv per hour. And Tokyo is more than 100km away from Fukushima. I doubt that Singapore can place a nuclear reactor 100+km away from the main island.
7. Current reactor design with passive cooling (so called Gen 3+ reactor design), are still under construction, and haven't been proven yet in operations. The first such reactor is expected to start operation this year in China.
8. Small modular reactors, reactors running on thorium, or Gen 4 reactors designs are still years away from being reality.
9. Although reactors have long lifespan, but current reactors need to refuel about every 2 years in operations. The uranium fuel rods have to be removed, store in a cooling pool before shipping it out for reprocessing. Do we have space to store these rods on-site especially when these rods are highly radioactive?
10. The idea of floating nuclear plant is interesting, but security? If it blows, where can it go? To Indonesia's or Malaysia's water? Also Singapore's surrounding sea may be contaminated, which will affect our desalinated water supply.
Another commenter questioned the writer's apparent vested interest, Hong Qixian wrote, "The writer Lim Soon Heng is the managing director of Floating Solutions LLP and obviously has vested interests in projects which involve floating plants or structures.
Hong further noted that Lim wrote a similar proposal on the same day 15th of March 2016. He wrote, "This article was never to promote nuclear but rather to promote projects that involve floating. While Singapore needs to consider her options, it is irresponsible to blatantly promote personal interests which could potentially jeopardize our entire country. I am appalled that the Straits Times is allowing this form of indirect advertisement in the guise of national commentary."
A few other of the comments are quoted below.
Larry Tan wrote, "With all our high rise buildings and climate, solar is the way to go. Even an idiot knows that. The repercussions of a nuclear fall out is not only detrimental to us but our neighboring countries. It's a catastrophe we can ill afford to gamble with."
Loh Wai Poon wrote, "He is a nut! He did not know about the nuclear leak in Fukushima in 2011? He did not know about the Nuclear 4 protest in Taiwan? He is behind time in asking for the nuclear option in power generation? We are a small country! Where do we keep the nuclear waste after their use in power generation? Dump them into the sea or ship them to an uninhabited island? Then how about a nuclear incident that may cripple the plant n leave us with a huge headache to tackle the aftermath? Then the cost of the plant? Did he know a better way to go nuclear than the existing first world countries? I am sure PM Abe of Japan will be more than willing to listen to him on how to restart his country nuclear power plants. So don't waste time on this issue. It is already dead before we can discuss it. He wants to think out of the box, fine. What he is thinking is out of logic n common sense. He is not thinking out of the box, he is thinking way out of any confine. No confine is his condition. Can we do that?"
Hanzo Oznah wrote, "We prefer the solar energy by installing solar panels at every HDB roof top. Its cleaner and safer than nuclear..."
Jimmy Chin wrote, "Definitely a NO. If any happened, there won't be any place to run. The whole country will be wipe out instantly. Not all of us have a plan B, like a house oversea."
Victor Hoh wrote: Murphy's law –"Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong." Draft up a contingency plan first before even thinking about nuclear. Which I can't even imagine a feasible plan that accommodates Singapore's lack of land and our population density for a plant inland. Building a plant offshore? Even if our neighbors agree to it. What happens when things goes wrong? The clean up would be many times more costly compared to a inland plant. In conclusion, the risk is more than the benefits.If things goes as planned, Singapore gets clean energy. If it doesn't go as planned? Will there be anything left of Singapore?
Cindy Low wrote: "Few years ago (2012), the govt already had a study on nuclear energy and decided not to have it. As for "floating platforms", area of Singapore Straits...... not very huge."
Keen Ng wrote, "Just remember that we are a small country and if ever meltdown happens, we will either all die instantly or die slowly, some may be lucky to become mutants."
Ken Teo wrote, "Start developing Algae Biodiesel. Implement hybrid solution of solar and other renewable sources. There are other solutions and we are not paying you to take the easiest one."
Wilkie Ong Keng Soon wrote, "Singapore didn't happen by chance or by accident. God has used good people to bring us this far, and will do so into the future. We shouldn't think that if we rely only on natural gas we will die eventually, but nuclear plant accident confirmed will wipe off the people here overnight. Radiation is invisible, your body absorb it is too late as you can't siam. We do not want to live a life of misery if we absorb radiation and didn't die."
Marcus Shawn wrote, "Big country can do it cos they can build on isolated land few hundreds km away. Anything happen, just corner off like resident evil. Singapore where can you run?"
Sangha Vandana wrote, "Rubbish! If feasible, Singapore don't need Lim to suggest. Singapore would have done it long ago. Singapore spent millions of dollar on feasibility studies not for fun. The consultants had recommended it is unsuitable. Before he writes, he should Google and read the reports. Our PM had also addressed parliament on why Singapore cannot go nuclear."
Jackson Gan wrote, "Just harness solar energy for god sake, one hour of sunshine can power the entire world for a year. Instead of making use of such free energy u choose to explore expensive options.
Call Elon musk if you need advice, stop burning coal and penalise people who try to reduce their carbon footprint by switching to electric cars."
Abdul Malik Mohammed Ghazali wrote: Risk is low, I agree. But if the control rods fail, if anything goes wrong and you have a meltdown, there will be nowhere to run. The exclusion zone in the case of a nuclear meltdown is 50km. Run where? Malaysia? As if they would let us.
Emdy MK wrote: If really insist on a nuclear plant, then pls consider building a thorium nuclear power plant but again do we really need a nuclear power plant to power a small island.Surash Ram wrote: One simple mistake and end of everything that our pioneers built. Kapoosh.
Surash Ram wrote: One simple mistake and end of everything that our pioneers built. Kapoosh.Micky Sim wrote: We can't even maintain MRTs and HDB lifts, and we want to go nuclear! Clever boy!
Micky Sim wrote, "We can't even maintain MRTs and HDB lifts, and we want to go nuclear! Clever boy!
Terry Ho wrote, "Really bad and stupid idea, I just have 1 question, wouldn't it be an easy target during a war? Making it easy for enemy to wipe us out?Jimmy Chin wrote: Please try to look further like turning seawater into energy."
Jimmy Chin wrote, "Please try to look further like turning seawater into energy."
Fyona Heng wrote, "Can we replace nuclear with solar power, which I am sure we have abundant for all year round sunny singapore? I heard that in Australia, government subsidise each household part of the cost of installing solar panel on their roof top. Any balance solar power un-used, can be sold back to the government, in the form of rebate in their utilities bill . Wouldn't this be a better option than nuclear? Don't just think about making money! Please think about the welfare and safety of your citizens!"
Bruce Ong wrote, "NO!! If anything touchwood, U are sinking the entire nation. Some risks we can't afford to take. Nevertheless, as always with every subject in the world, some have different opinions"
There were a few who did stop to consider the necessity of a nuclear plant for Singapore's power needs.
ShaoWei Li wrote, "There's not much options actually. Even if we outsource our power needs to a neighbouring country, if they use fossil fuel or coal it will still pollute the world. We don't have the land mass for wind turbine and waves not strong enough to generate power. Readers can slap, blackmail, send death threats etc to the writer, and what's the solution? Keep going ahead or do anything not in my generation or in my children's generation? There's got to be something better? The govt is paid to think?"
Colin Chen wrote, "LOL at all the people who think nuclear power plants are potential time bombs. The emissions and radiations are much lower than our current coal power plants by the way. Go do some proper reading please. This is a matter with heavy consequences that should be considered very carefully. Some of the opposite comments have valid reasoning."