Mahathir will not let Malaysia pursue nuclear energy due to radiation worries

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has reversed the previous government’s decision to pursue nuclear energy, citing health concerns.
REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

Previous prime ministers may have promised to develop nuclear energy, but it won’t happen in Malaysia while Mahathir Mohamad’s in power.

The current Prime Minister announced at an energy conference this week that the country would suffer from radiation if it tried to build plants, citing the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents, the Star reported.

Nuclear energy creates dangerous radioactive waste, which is difficult to dispose of safely. Scientists have not found a way to make this waste safe for humans to go near to it.

Mahathir said Malaysia once tried to dispose of radioactive waste from manufacturing colour television sets. After people in the area feared they would suffer health effects, the government decided to bury the waste under thick cement to contain the radiation.

The land used to bury the waste was expensive to buy and could have been used for development instead, he added.

The cheap cost of generating electricity from nuclear energy compared to fossil fuels is why previous governments were keen to pursue it. But Mahathir said Malaysia can still rely on coal reserves, wind energy and hydro-electric dams, which are safer sources.

“Nuclear is not the solution to generating electricity,” he said. “That was the policy during my time as the fourth PM. It was not the policy for the fifth and sixth prime minister, but now, I am back.”