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Power Struggle

The NU has declared the planned nuclear power plant ‘forbidden.’ Resistance is also backed by industrialists.

SEVERAL hundred Islamic clerics from Central Java came together in the branch office of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) mass Muslim organization in Jepara, Saturday, two weeks ago, to discuss the status of the fiqih (Islamic rules) in relation to a nuclear power plant (PLTN), which is planned to be built in Muria, Jepara, Central Java.

“A large portion of the participants are of the opinion that construction of the Muria PLTN is haram (forbidden),” stated the Chairman of NU Jepara chapter, K.H. Nurudin Amin. This startling conclusion may be bad news for the construction plans made for the power plant, hoped to be in operation by 2017.

Actions and demonstrations against the PLTN began earlier this year even though plans for its construction have been in the works since 1974. Objection has come not only from the community, but also from businesses that are united in the Indonesian Industrialists Association of Kudus.

The NU Jepara branch, subsequently, found it necessary to arrange for gatherings of Islamic clerics in response to the situation. Other than that, “The community has also been pressing the issue. As the majority of people in Jepara follow NU Islam, they want to know about the PLTN in Muria from the perspective of the fiqih,” said the man also known as Gus Nung.

At the same time, the NU also wants to bring together a group of people from both pro and con perspectives on the PLTN. This aim is in response to information from the NU in Jakarta about an offer from the Department of Research & Technology to set up a socialization program. However, Nurudin asked that the format of the program be changed to a dialog. “With the socialization format, it would have been a one-way discussion,” said Nurudin.

NU Jepara agreed to the offer and received funding for the dialog sessions from the Department of Research & Technology. The event then took place on September 1. Minister of Research & Technology, Kusmayanto Kadiman, and head of the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) Hudi Hastowo, also attended the discussion.

Dialog sessions ran throughout the day, and in the evening clerics gave their perspectives. Although all in attendance were Muslim clerics, the opinions that arose were far from identical. At the start of the first session, four participants dropped out. One of them was Kiai (Islamic cleric) Rafi, who declared that PLTN was beneficial and therefore should be support ed.

According to Nurudin, Kiai Rafi is not the only cleric that is pro-PLTN. There are at least five others of the same view. “But the majority assert that the mafsadat (negative impacts) are much larger, because we consider the PLTN to be haram,” said Nurudin.

Head of the Indonesian Ulema Council Maruf Amin was reluctant to comment on this issue. “It is a religious law, certainly the illad (argumentation) must be clear. It cannot be based on an appraisal that is not definite,” he said. His council up to now has not received a statement or discussed the religious rulings from Jepara. “We can not give our judgment yet, as we have not yet read the results comprehensively.”

NU Jepara is aware that the government does not have to follow religious law. And if the government continues with their plans, “We will continue to oppose them,” stated Nurudin.

Hudi Hastowo, who also participated in the dialog, acknowledged that the atmosphere at the program was one of resistance to the PLTN. In fact, the Minister of Research could not even present his argument because each clarification he gave was met with a shout of “liar.”

Hudi assured the community, Batan is experienced in handling nuclear plants. Up to now, Batan has built reactors in Serpong, Bandung, and Yogyakarta. But even this was not enough to convince the opponents of the plan. “Instead, they compared the reactor and the PLTN as being like a bajaj (motorized rickshaw) and a tronton (trailer truck),” said Hudi.

Of course, Hudi did not reject this analogy. In nuclear management, the issue is not only the size of the reactor, because the handling procedure is the same. “Likewise, the standards for constructing the PLTN are very strict.” In his opinion, the analogy between the reactor and the PLTN was like comparing an aerobatic plane with a Boeing 747. “One is for flying maneuvers and the other for flying across continents.”

Nurudin questioned the ability of the government to handle the PLTN. He gave the example of the never-ending Lapindo mudflow, let alone nuclear waste. The experience in handling the three reactors cannot be used as a measure. In Serpong, the reactor can produce at most only 30 megawatts of electricity, whereas the Muria PLTN could produce 4x1000 megawatts. “Clearly there is a difference,” he said.

In Jepara, Nurudin has become one of the star opposers of the PLTN. Last June, along with activists from Greenpeace Indonesia, he went to Japan and Korea to meet with a number of anti-nuclear organizations. “I had the chance to demonstrate alone in front of the Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCo), South Korea,” said Nurudin.

Controversy about the Muria PLTN surfaced several years ago. Even before the haram ruling, the Jepara community tried to prevent the plant. There were demonstrations and people went to the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD). Among the ranks of the anti-PLTN groups was an association called the Community Earth Guards (Marem), made up of anti-PLTN community organizations around the Mt Muria area.

Established December 22, 2006, Marem did not work alone. They also received funding from several businesses, among them PT Djarum. This cigarette industry giant has been involved in financing a number of discussions set up by Marem in a number of cities. On February 28, there was a discussion about the PLTN at the Santika Hotel, Semarang. Two months later, there were two more activities of the same sort in at the UKSW campus Salatiga, and the Sugijopranata University in Kudus. Tempo’s source in Marem acknowledged the funding support. “Yes, looking at our activities, it could be in the billions,” said the source.

Not only that. Before having a small secretariat in Kudus, the organizational meetings were frequently held at a three-star hotel in Kudus.

Hasan Aoni Aziz, deputy head of Marem, stated that the organization receives funding from all businesses in Kudus. “The involvement of businesses is a means for survival, to defend their investments. This is a natural fear,” said the man active in the Indonesia Anti-Nuclear Community.

A director at PT Djarum, Soedjarwo, stated that not only his company is funding this movement. “All businesses in Jepara support this movement,” he said. According to him, Indonesia is not ready to manage nuclear power because the risk is too high. “We are ready to buy it, but not to manage it.”

Members of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) also agree in rejecting the PLTN. “Businesses are doing their share because they are afraid of the danger of the PTLN,” said Chairman of Apindo Kudus chapter, Raswidiyanto. If an accident or radioactive leak were to happen, this would certainly threaten their industries located less than 70 kilometers from the site.

Although a leak has not happened, he said, competitors can use the location of their industry to create a negative campaign about their products. For example, it could be said that all products from Muria and the surrounding area should not be used because there is a potential they have been exposed to nuclear radiation. If this were to happen, clearly it would threaten the woodcarving, textile, cigarettes, paper, and electronics industries from Jepara, Kudus, and Pati. “This fear makes a lot of sense,” said Soedjarwo.

The controversy will certainly make the fate of the Muria PLTN all the more uncertain. Koesmayadi confirmed that the government has not made a decision about whether to use a PLTN or not. “Up to now, the government has not decided whether it will utilize a PLTN or not,” he said.

Hudi Hastowo explained the same issue. The plan for construction of the PLTN to be completed by 2016 is with the assumption that the government made a decision three years ago. “But actually, up to now a decision has not been made,” he said. Even though the government has continually been doing research on Muria up to now, it is only for the regeneration of data if the plans are continued.

Abdul Manan, Sohirin

The Fate of PLTN

THE dream for construction of a nuclear power plant (PLTN) began in 1972. Actually, the idea has been around since the 1950s, although only came up in seminars. In the 1970s, its aspirations were getting close to realization with the establishment of the Commission for PLTN Construction Preparation by the National Atomic Energy Agency—now the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan). Based on a study, there are 14 places where a PLTN could be built. The Muria Peninsula was determined to be the most ideal.

According to Hudi Bastowo, head of Batan, the power plant was considered for the ground of energy diversification. “So that we don’t have to be too dependent on oil,” he said. However, the plan did not go smoothly due to the fact that Indonesia is still an oil-rich country and the market price is still relatively cheap. Works in Muria began again in 1985 by re-evaluating and conducting new research with help from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In August 1991, an agreement for a study was signed by Indonesia and an electrical energy consultant from Japan, Newjec Inc. Three years later, three potential sites were identified in Muria, and the best candidate was the Ujung Lemahabang PLTN site. The study was completed in May 1996.

The issue of PLTN was brought up again during the President Abdurrahman Wahid period. At that time, Wahid invited the IAEA to do another study in Indonesia. The result, according to Hastowo, was that the IAEA determined that a PLTN could be built by the year 2017. According to the previous head of Batan, Soedyartomo Soentono, the power plant construction tender will begin in 2008 and enter the construction stage in 2011. The research results were given to the government in August 2003, but no decision has been made up to this time.

Tempo Magazine, No. 02/VIII/September 11-17, 2007


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