In the past decade, driven by the demand for energy to support economic development, countries in the Southeast Asian region have been actively exploring the adoption of nuclear energy. The momentum was dampened by the Fukushima crisis of March 2011, which shifted the world’s attention to the safety of nuclear energy. However, recent developments clearly show that long-term interest in nuclear energy in the region has not been significantly affected, in spite of the safety concerns generated by the Fukushima crisis.
Vietnam has signed an agreement with Russia to build a 2x1,200 MWe nuclear power plant (NPP) in the southern Ninh Thuân province, to be operational by 2023. A Japanese consortium is expected to build a second NPP of similar capacity in the same province, to be operational by 2024. Indonesia, Thailand and some other countries are also seriously looking into the construction and commissioning of NPPs in the next decade. As any NPP incident in the region could lead to trans-boundary consequences, these developments have important implications for the security and safety of Singapore.
Singapore has announced in parliament in October 2012 that it will not pursue nuclear power at this juncture with current NPP technology. It will wait for NPP technology and safety to improve further before reconsidering this option. However, Singapore needs to strengthen its capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology, in order to assess the implications for Singapore of evolving nuclear energy technologies and regional nuclear energy developments. Singapore should also play an active role in global and regional cooperation on nuclear safety to facilitate sharing of best practices in nuclear safety, emergency planning and response, and to support human resource development.
In October 2013, the National Research Foundation (NRF), Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore approved a five-year budget of $62.9M to develop a Nuclear Safety Research and Education Programme (NSREP). In recognition of the fact that it would take more than 10 years to build credible capability in nuclear science and safety, and to demonstrate a long-term commitment to attract scientists and engineers to this discipline, NSREP has been given in-principle approval for a 15-year implementation period, subject to review before the end of each five-year funding period.
NSREP will encompass research activities that directly meet the national needs in nuclear science and technology as determined by the relevant Government agencies, and will also have the objective of nurturing Singapore’s own expertise in this area. It is recognized that not all the research has to be directly linked to the agencies’ day-to-day needs; some will be cutting-edge research undertaken with longer-term objectives and to attract and retain the best talent.
Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative (SNRSI) is established as the research arm of NSREP. Its mission will be to implement the research programmes of NSREP and to attract, develop and sustain a thriving community of nuclear science and technology experts. In addition, SNRSI will also host laboratories and activities which will be funded separately.
The Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative (SNRSI) is established to concentrate expertise and knowledge in nuclear technology and safety in a single institute, and sustain a critical mass of manpower engaged in a range of nuclear-related activities relevant to Singapore. To achieve this goal, SNRSI will take on the following activities: