Singapore's Nuclear Needs

Jie Zhao
March 17, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2015

Energy in Singapore

Fig. 1: Schematic of pebble bed reactor. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Singapore is a city state with 712.4 km2, 5.183 million people, population density of 7,126 per square kilometer and limited natural resources. [1] Fossil fuels and natural gas are mainly used to generate energy to meet development and human needs. [2] As Table 1 shows, energy import in Singapore is about three times the primary energy. 80% of the electricity in Singapore is generated by natural gas imported from Malaysia. In order to secure national energy supply, reduce carbon dioxide emission and protect the environment, the development of clean and renewable energy is necessary. Since Singapore lacks the land area to create a safety zone around a nuclear reactor and the population density is very high, there is no nuclear plant in Singapore now. [3]

Nuclear Energy in Singapore

However, the government of Singapore does not debar the possibility of using nuclear energy in the future. Though current nuclear energy technology is not suitable for Singapore, the study on nuclear energy never stops. In 2014, the government of Singapore starts a $63 million, five-year program to conduct research and education in nuclear safety, science, and engineering. [4] The research will focus on three areas: radiochemistry, which aims to work out how best to detect radioactivity in the environment and establish baseline data for Singapore; radiobiology, to study how human health is affected by the small doses of radiation; and safety analysis of nuclear power plants through models and simulations. In the future, nuclear energy might be a good choice. As G. Zheng shown in 2012, offshore nuclear power system is a possible choice for Singapore. [3] Small reactor such as pebble bed reactors is also worth to study. [5] Fig. 1 shows the schematic of pebble bed reactors. Pebble bed reactors are helium cooled reactors that use small tennis ball size fuel balls consisting of only 9 grams of uranium per pebble to provide a low power density reactor. They are small, modular, inherently safe, use a demonstrated nuclear technology and can be competitive with fossil fuels. This feature should enhance public confidence in the nuclear technology. With advanced modularity principles, it is expected that this type of design and assembly could lower the cost of new nuclear plants removing a major impediment to deployment. Once the nuclear energy technology is mature enough, nuclear energy can be a good choice for Singapore.

Capita Prim. Energy Production Import Electricity CO2-Emission
Million TWh TWh TWh TWh Mt
2004 4.24 298 0 548 34.6 38.1
2007 4.59 311 0 628 39.1 45.0
2008 4.84 215 0 650 39.6 44.3
2009 5.00 215 0 685 39.7 44.8
2012 5.20 43.6 64.8
Table 1: Energy in Singapore. (1 Mtoe = 11.6 TWh. Primary energy includes energy losses.) [2]

© Jie Zhao. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] L. H. Koh et al., "Renewable Energy Integration into Smart Grids: Problems and Solutions - Singapore Experience," IEEE 6345679, Power and Energy Society General Meeting, 22 Jul 12.

[2] "2014 Key World Energy Statistics," International Energy Agency, 2014.

[3] G. Zheng, "Underwater Nuclear Reactor In Singapore," PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2012.

[4] G. Chua, "Singapore Starts Nuclear Safety and Science Research Programme," Straits Times, 23 Apr 14.

[5] A. Kadak, "A Future for Nuclear Energy: Pebble Bed Reactors," International Journal of Critical Infrastructures, 1, 330 (2005).