What new initiatives is the Malaysian Nuclear Agency currently involved in?
JURI: Nuclear Malaysia currently has three main initiatives. The first main initiatives are education and training. They are very important to us, and very important to Malaysia. Education and training focuses on the expansion of knowledge and know-how through our universities. We also work with the local industries to transfer technology. We work with the local automotive industries to supply automotive components that we develop here at Nuclear Malaysia.
Critics site Fukushima as an example that safety is always a potential concern with regards to nuclear energy. What is your response to this criticism?
JURI: We at Nuclear Malaysia always believe that safety should be a number one concern. I think this not only applies to nuclear science and technology. This applies to any industry where there is associated risk. In nuclear technology itself, we have principle of radiation protection. There are three principles. One is justification, one is optimization, and one is dose limitation. All of this will take care of the safety.
What new technological innovations are there with regards to nuclear energy?
JURI: Based on the lesson learned from Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima, there are three main developments. One is safety. The manufacturer is now designing facilities, which have what we call a Passive System Installation. If there is an earthquake or Tsunami, the system will shut down by itself without the need for intervention by personnel. Another innovation is the use of new mixed oxide fuel. The nuclear industry used to use uranium and plutonium, but now we are looking at thorium as a source of fuel because it is more proliferation resistant.
How would nuclear energy fit into Malaysia’s overall energy mix?
JURI: Malaysia still does not have nuclear power. Currently our energy mix is natural gas, coal, hydro, and some renewable energy. We must look at various options for generating electricity. We are over-dependent on coal for instance. Most of the coal is imported. Oil and gas is depleting. Renewable energy is still under development. In Korea and France, 50-70% of their energy comes from nuclear power. These are the things we have to look at, but the main concern is public acceptance. At the end of the day the public should determine if we should make the transition into nuclear power.
In what ways are you working with universities to improve scientific research and development? Where do you see opportunities for collaboration with the private sector in terms of R&D?
JURI: We collaborate with industries and universities. We have filed 29 patents. Some of them have been approved and some of them are still pending. Some of the systems we have developed at Nuclear Malaysia are used to service our clients in the oil and gas industries, public and private hospitals, and other industries that use radioactive sources. Even though we may not commercialize it, we still use this technology to service these industries.
The nuclear industry used to use uranium and plutonium, but now we are looking at thorium as a source of fuel because it is more proliferation resistant.
What are some of the issues you face in promoting nuclear energy?
JURI: Nuclear Malaysia has been in existence for the last 40 years. We are the only institute in Malaysia that has a nuclear reactor for research and training. We have done a lot of promotional exercises for schools. Basic nuclear science is being taught in the university, but we open our doors not only to schools but also to all people who want to visit our facilities here.