Focus on cutting demand, other sources of clean energy

In his commentary ("A floating nuclear power plant - off Singapore?"; Tuesday), Mr Lim Soon Heng advocated the use of floating small modular reactors running on nuclear power for electricity generation in Singapore.

However, there are several issues to consider.

First, there is the intractability of nuclear wastes and their potential contamination.

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster is telling not only because it exemplified a "perfect storm" of an extreme natural event colliding with the precariousness of nuclear technologies.

But it is also an upsetting and unending struggle with nuclear contamination that is neither visible nor tractable. Moreover, it has long-lasting consequences extending far into the future.

Second, Mr Lim proffers nuclear power as "the only viable answer" to Singapore's energy needs.

But that may not be so.

As a small city-state with an effective and advanced system of governance, Singapore also has the option of reducing its future aggregate energy demand while spearheading explorations on clean energy generation.

And for what one clean energy source cannot supply alone, perhaps an innovative system made up of many diversified sources alongside a general commitment to reduce energy demand may suffice.

Clearly, the energy crisis in the world today is also, in part, caused by profligate and unbridled energy use.

If so, then at least part of the problem lies in wastefulness, which is a human disposition, and not a technical problem to be solved by a technological solution.

Finally, there are security and environmental risks involved if fleets of naval cruisers come into close contact with fleets from other sovereign powers around floating nuclear reactors.

Jeffrey Chan Kok Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Focus on cutting demand, other sources of clean energy'. Print Edition | Subscribe