Dr Lim Wee Kiak: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) what have been the activities and achievements of the Nuclear Safety Research and Education Programme (NSREP) in the past five-year funding period; (b) how many talents have been groomed under the Nuclear Education and Training Fund; (c) whether the NSREP is exploring safe nuclear energy technologies for our own use; and (d) what are the plans for the next tranche of funding.
Dr Lim Wee Kiak: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) whether the energy crunch has resulted in any change to the Government’s stand on using nuclear energy; and (b) what is the Government’s response to Indonesia’s plans to build a nuclear power plant after 2025 to support national energy demand.
Written Answer by Second Minister for Trade and Industry Dr Tan See Leng
1. Mr Speaker, the global energy landscape has been undergoing a transition from coal and oil to natural gas and renewable energy such as solar and wind, and other low-carbon energy solutions such as nuclear energy and hydrogen. The recent global energy crunch has also highlighted the importance for the energy transition to be managed carefully, to avoid major disruptions to consumers as well as more importantly to ensure our energy resilience and security.
2. Singapore has outlined our commitments to achieving a low-carbon energy future as part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 and our Long-term Low Emissions Development Strategy. Towards this goal, we have been exploring solutions to decarbonise the grid. These include a) accelerating solar deployment; b) working towards importing electricity; and c) exploring low-carbon energy solutions such as hydrogen, geothermal energy and Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS).
3. We have been monitoring developments in nuclear energy, especially improvements in the safety of new nuclear technologies. Advanced nuclear reactor technologies and designs, such as Small Modular Reactors, Generation IV, and fusion reactors, are being developed globally and have the potential to be much safer than many of the plants that are in operation today. However, many of them are still in the research and development phase, and have not begun commercial operations.
4. The National Research Foundation (NRF) established the Nuclear Safety Research and Education Programme (NSREP) in 2014, which set up a centre of excellence for nuclear safety capability building, the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative (SNRSI). Through the Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity (ALMERA) network, SNRSI has developed internationally recognised capabilities, including the ability to detect the identity and quantity of radioactive material in the environment to the precision and accuracy expected of member labs. In addition, SNRSI is developing capabilities in the safety analysis of different reactor designs, which will help us better understand global developments in these technologies.
5. In the last five years, SNRSI has awarded 24 scholarships for post-graduate studies in areas related to nuclear energy. The next tranche of funding will focus on building up a talent pool in nuclear policy, science and safety, and to study new reactor designs as they become available.
6. As a responsible member of the international community, Singapore also actively supports international efforts to strengthen the global nuclear safety and security architecture. We work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and with other ASEAN Member States in the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM) to build up our knowledge of nuclear safety, to contribute towards strengthening regional preparedness to respond to a potential nuclear emergency.
7. Our future energy mix will depend on advancements in low-carbon technologies, and collaborations and trading of low-carbon energy across borders. Any decision to deploy new energy technologies will need to be considered against the technology’s safety and reliability, affordability and environmental sustainability. We must also continue to step up our efforts to enhance energy efficiency across all sectors and encourage energy conservation by consumers. The Government will continue to monitor developments in nuclear energy, and when the technology is available and safe, consider its feasibility for Singapore.