Next week, leaders from Europe and Asia will come together to discuss ways to improve nuclear safety at the First ASEM Seminar in Singapore on Wednesday.
The seminar will address the ever-present interest in energy resources in an international climate where the need for nuclear energy has not faded, despite public concern over its safety. It is designed to provide a platform for an exchange of views and experiences on the best practices among relevant policymakers and operational experts on emergency preparedness and response to nuclear accidents.
In spite of the setbacks to the nuclear industry caused by the Fukushima nuclear crisis last year, the fundamental reasons that drive countries to explore nuclear energy have not changed. The demand for energy is continually increasing as nations rapidly urbanise and face rising populations. Given the lack of viable alternative energy sources and the climate change concerns faced by many countries it is difficult for them to reject the option of nuclear energy. As a result steps must be taken to improve nuclear safety and ensure public health and confidence.
Nicholas Fang, Director at SIIA, has welcomed the talks saying that "Singapore's hosting of the inaugural ASEM Seminar on Nuclear Safety is significant for a country which has yet to invest in the nuclear sector.
Singapore's tentativeness in directing resources to grow a meaningful nuclear industry is linked to potential concerns over safety and security, especially in a small country with limited land and space for possible nuclear facilities.
The hosting of the seminar which focuses on "National, Regional and International Nuclear Emergency Preparedness and Response" points to the way in which Singapore can play a role in a nuclear dialogue in the region - by becoming a knowledge centre and repository of expertise on the subject.
This will enable Singapore to have a voice on nuclear issues in the region, which are set to come to the fore in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia in the near future."
Positive Signs from Myanmar
The ASEM Seminar comes as Myanmar’s defence minister announced that it has abandoned its nuclear project and stepped back from close military ties with North Korea. Lt Gen Hla Min told the Shangri-La Dialogue forum over the weekend that his country’s new government had “given up all activities on nuclear issues.”
The defence minister’s comments are a sign of how far the once-secretive nation has moved toward becoming a more democratic country following elections last year. The reforms have attracted attention from foreign investors and persuaded Western countries to remove sanctions.
Report: ASEM Seminar on Nuclear Safety (ASEM, 5 June, 2012)
Report: Spotlight on nuclear safety bigger than ever (Jakarta Post, 3 March, 2012)
Report: Burma ‘has given up nuclear power research’ (BBC, 2 June, 2012)
Report: Burma scraps primitive nuclear program (Mizzima, 4 June, 2012)