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Oral reply to PQs on Singapore's Energy Needs

Oral reply to PQs on Singapore's Energy Needs

Questions

 

Mr Ang Wei Neng: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry in light of the Energy Market Authority’s Energy 2050 Committee Report (a) how will Singapore prepare itself to generate 10% of the country’s energy needs using nuclear energy in a safe and reliable manner by 2050; and (b) what steps will Singapore take to assure our neighbours that the use of nuclear energy in Singapore will not impact the environment unfavourably with sufficient safeguards.

 

Ms Poh Li San: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry since the Government’s pre-feasibility study on nuclear technologies in 2012, what are the technological improvements made in this area that now render the technologies potentially fit and safe for deployment, especially given the high population density in Singapore.

 

Mr Liang Eng Wah: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) what are the prospects of next-generation technologies being used to tap on geothermal energy and nuclear energy for Singapore’s future energy supply mix; and (b) what are the challenges that need to be overcome.

 

Oral Answer (to be attributed to Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan)

 

1. Mr Speaker, the report released by the Energy 2050 Committee last month sets out several possible pathways for Singapore’s power sector to achieve net-zero by or around 2050, the transformational changes needed to achieve this, and the challenges arising from geopolitical trends and technological advancements. One of these pathways contemplates an energy future where we successfully deploy large scale low-carbon technologies at lower cost for energy generation. These new technologies may include hydrogen, geothermal energy and nuclear energy. Let me explain how we view these sources of energy.

 

2. First, geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is an attractive energy source as it potentially provides a more consistent supply of energy compared to solar, which is intermittent due to Singapore’s weather and cloud cover. Conventional geothermal systems are not viable here in Singapore due to the lack of adequate hot water and steam resources at shallow depths. However, due to recent advances in geothermal technology, we could possibly harness geothermal heat from deep underground. The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is conducting exploratory studies to estimate the geothermal resource potential in various parts of Singapore. If found feasible, geothermal energy could be a new source of indigenous clean energy in Singapore.

 

3. As for nuclear energy, the Government concluded a pre-feasibility study in 2012, which found that conventional large reactor technologies were not suitable for deployment in Singapore. However, new designs being developed since then have the potential to be much safer than many of the plants in operation today. These include Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and “Generation IV” nuclear technologies, which incorporate enhanced safety systems that may not be possible for older generation technologies. Some of the SMRs are also designed to cool safely and passively without requiring external systems or operator actions during emergencies.

 

4. Besides nuclear fission, there have also been significant interest and advances in nuclear fusion development. Unlike fission, nuclear fusion does not cause chain reactions, and will not produce long-lived radioactive waste. Hence, nuclear fusion power plants can theoretically produce clean electricity to meet our energy needs.

 

5. However, many of these advanced geothermal and nuclear technologies are still in research and development phase, and have not begun commercial operations. We will need to consider any decision to deploy new energy technologies against its safety, reliability, affordability and environmental sustainability in Singapore’s context. These technologies must meet stringent standards of critical infrastructure resilience in line with the international best practices of developed countries which have experience in ensuring the safety of such power plants.

 

6. Given the technical complexity of nuclear energy technologies, we will need to continue building our ability to better understand and assess their safety, security and environmental implications before we consider them for deployment in Singapore. The Government, through the Nuclear Safety Research and Education Programme, is supporting research in relevant areas of nuclear policy, science and engineering, as well as efforts to train a pool of scientists and experts in local and overseas universities.

 

7. 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 with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other ASEAN Member States in the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM), to help strengthen regional preparedness to respond to a potential nuclear emergency.

 

8. Our future energy mix will depend on advancements in low-carbon technologies, as well as through collaborations and trading of low-carbon energy across borders. The Government will carefully study the recommendations in the Committee’s report and calibrate our plans accordingly as technologies evolve. In the meantime, we will continue to enhance energy efficiency across all sectors and encourage consumers to play their part to conserve energy.

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