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19 October 2023

King's leads workshops on floating nuclear power plant challenges in Southeast Asia

King's staff joined nuclear leaders in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand to explore why it will be many years before these technologies will be viable.

King’s experts, participants and Lemhannas RI staff group photograph from the end of the Jakarta workshop.
King’s experts, participants and Lemhannas RI staff group photograph from the end of the Jakarta workshop.

In August, King’s College London delivered two workshops on the challenges of floating nuclear power plants (FNPP) in Jakarta and Manila. Working with experts from Nuclear Transport Solutions, Dr Ross Peel and Dr Zenobia Homan from the Centre for Science & Security Studies worked with senior decision makers and local scientists in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand to explore novel nuclear safety, security and other issues. Workshop participants came from a range of national nuclear research organisations, regulatory bodies, coastguard, and government ministries. The workshops are expected to result in changes to national green energy strategies.

Floating nuclear power plants are gaining a lot of interest from states considering nuclear power. However, these technologies are much more complex than just being reactors on barges.

George Burnett, from Nuclear Transport Solutions, said: 'FNPPs are an exciting iteration of advanced nuclear technology, however it is important that the challenges associated with deploying civil nuclear facilities in a maritime environment are identified and addressed for both safety and security. Experience of moving nuclear material by sea gives us valuable insight into some of these challenges and how they can be overcome.'

The pair of two-day workshops were held at the National Resilience Institute of the Republic of Indonesia (Lemhannas RI) on 9 – 10 August and at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute on 15 – 16 August. Of the Lemhannas-hosted workshop, held in Jakarta, the Governor of Lemhannas RI, Andi Widjajanto, said: 'This is the first workshop, so this will focus on exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge and information.'

Following the workshop, he said that Lemhannas would do further studies, and make policy recommendations to the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.

Meanwhile, Mark O. Cojuangco, a Representative in the Philippine House and Chair of the newly created Nuclear Energy Committee, expressed his interest in the workshop held in Manila. He told the King’s team that he strongly supports land-based nuclear power plants.

Dr Peel said, 'FNPP may be mostly technically sound, but they still pose many unanswered questions. Whether they are nuclear power plants, vessels, or a bit of both may sound like an academic question, but it actually has major real-world impacts on what laws will apply to them. For instance, it is not clear whether fundamental international agreements, such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, would apply to them. There are also risks to the energy security and independence of states using foreign-owned and -operated FNPPs to meet their needs.'

Dr Peel expects to continue collaboration with all three countries on FNPP issues going forward.

In this story

Zenobia  Homan

Research Fellow and Project Coordinator

Ross Peel

Research Fellow