Prospect for Nuclear Energy in Malaysia

Kawin Surakitbovorn
March 17, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

Prospect for Nuclear Energy in Malaysia

Fig. 1: The oil balance for Malaysia. [6] (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the fact that Malaysia has been fortunate to have a lot of fossil fuel and natural resources, since 2011, the amount of oil consumption had started to exceed the oil production, causing Malaysia to start importing oil (Fig. 1). To get away from being highly dependent on fossil fuel, and to produce the electricity to meet the demand, other sources were considered. The three possible options are coal, renewable energy, and nuclear power. Coal is a cheap and easy option, but it leads to dependency on imported coal, and also increases carbon emission. Renewable energy, on the other hand, is clean, but expensive and the resources could be sporadic. This leaves nuclear power plant as a stable long-term option.

Generation Mix and Its Effects

In concern with the global warming issue, and to reduce reliance on fossil fuel, Malaysia's Prime Minister announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009 that Malaysia was going to reduce its carbon emission per GDP by 2020 from its 2005 baseline by 40%. [1] Dahalan et al. compare the total generation cost, the CO2 emissions, and the system reliability for the year 2030 between the scenario where the generation mix stays the same as in 2013 (case 1), and the scenario where the generation mix is as targeted by the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water Malaysia (KETTHA) of Malaysia (case 2). [2] The results show that while the total annualized investment cost for is higher for the case 2, the total generation cost is found to be cheaper with nuclear plant in the mix due to the cheaper marginal cost. The results also show that with in case 2 with nuclear power in the mix, the CO2 emission will be lower at 23 MTOE per year vs. 35 MTOE per year. Finally, as expected, the results also show that with the more balanced mix in case 2, the system reliability will also be higher.

Acceptance of Nuclear Energy

While a nuclear power plant produces less CO2 emission and is cheaper than coal in the long term, the Fukushima incident has caused a drop in public acceptance of nuclear energy in Malaysia. [3] The results obtained through questionnaire showed that only 40% of the general public supported the implementation of nuclear power plant. This is in contrast with the work of Hayder and Rahim, which showed high acceptance of nuclear power among university staff and students with engineering background. [4] This discrepancy is unsurprising and is likely due to the fact that the background knowledge of the respondents highly influences their acceptance level. To understand the issue better, Saad et al. interviewed 10 Malaysian professionals who either directly or indirectly participated in nuclear-related or power generation project. [5] Their finding showed that of the 10 respondents, only slightly more than half (60%) had shown positive attitude, while the rest of them (40%) believed that nuclear energy should not be implemented in the country. What was interesting is that while 40% of the respondents disagreed with the idea of nuclear energy, this was not due to them not understanding on potential of nuclear energy, but instead to their concerns on the readiness of Malaysia to operate nuclear power plants. Several respondents expressed their concern over the level of corruption that can interfere with the nuclear power plant operation. Their fear was that the government would award or appoint non-experienced personnel to head relevant organizations that would be responsible for nuclear project, simply for political gain.


With the increase in power consumption, the issue with the level of CO2 emission and global warming, as well as the drop in oil production, Malaysia was forced to consider diversifying their generation mix. One potential way to do that is by adding nuclear power into the mix. While this generation mix would give them both cheaper generation cost and lower CO2 emissions, Malaysians were still undecided about the idea of Malaysia building nuclear power plants. One main reservation that experts in the field had was the issue of corruption within the government. With such substantial and expensive projects where public safety is on the line, such wrongdoing from the government could easily resulted in a disaster.

© Kawin Surakitbovorn. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. 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] K. Rahim, "Towards Low Carbon Economy via Carbon Intensity Reduction in Malaysia," Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development. 5, 123 (2014).

[2] N. Y. Dahlan et al., "Analysis of the Impact of Nuclear Power Plant on Malaysia's Power Systems: Costs, CO2 Emission and System Reliability," IEEE 7062442, 1 Dec 14.

[3] S. Roh and D. Kim, "Effect of Fukushima Accident on Public Acceptance of Nuclear Energy (Fukushima Accident and Nuclear Public Acceptance)," Energy Sources 12, 565 (2017).

[4] G. Hayder and M. S. A. Rahim, "Nuclear Power Acceptance among University Staff and Students," IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci 32, 012035 (2016).

[5] M. A. Saad et al., "Consideration for Nuclear Energy in Malaysia," 8215964, 18 Sep 17.

[6] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017," British Petroleum, June 2017.