Cablegate: Singapore Eyeing Nuclear Energy for the Future
R 230920Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6177
INFO ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SINGAPORE 001339
STATE FOR EAP/MLS
STATE FOR T/MHUMPHREY
STATE PASS COMMERCE FOR SLOPP
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG EINV ETRD ECON SN
SUBJECT: SINGAPORE EYEING NUCLEAR ENERGY FOR THE FUTURE
REF: A) STATE 127423; B)SINGAPORE 1243; C) SINGAPORE 1248
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Singapore supports the use of nuclear energy for
electricity generation, but it currently lacks the land space and
technological expertise within its workforce to safely build and
operate a nuclear facility. The GOS and other local energy experts
view nuclear power as a viable future alternative to Singapore's
dependence on natural gas imports and a way to better ensure its
long-term energy security. Singapore will likely use foreign direct
investment to develop nuclear energy capabilities that it can either
export in the near term or use to develop its own nuclear power
facilities 20 or 30 years from now when it might be possible to
build safer plants with smaller footprints. Singapore has been a
member of the International Atomic Energy Agency since 1967 and it
is a party to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
(NPT). End Summary.
2. (SBU) In response to reftel A, post has compiled information
about Singapore's nascent nuclear energy industry. Post's responses
follow the questions that were included in reftel A.
Overview of Civil Nuclear Power Program
3. (SBU) Describe any plans for the development of nuclear power in
your country. Also, describe any existing or planned nuclear power
related facilities in your country, such as uranium mining, if any.
Do you foresee an expansion of these facilities?
Singapore does not currently have a nuclear power industry. It also
lacks natural resources and a domestic mining industry. Singapore
does not have the land space to safely house a reactor, but
authorities believe it may be an option in 20 or 30 years when
technology has improved to build smaller and safer reactors.
Singapore Energy Market Authority (EMA) Deputy CEO Lawrence Wong
told the DCM that the GOS would like to create the conditions for
development of a nuclear power plant so the government is prepared
to respond when it is considered feasible from an economic
perspective (ref B).
4. (SBU) If your country is considering the pursuit of nuclear
power, describe the underlying motivations (e.g., current or
anticipated power shortages, energy security, or other industrial
uses, such as desalination).
Singapore is almost entirely dependent on natural gas imports for
its electricity generation, making it potentially vulnerable to
supply disruptions. It also lacks an environment conducive to using
other alternative energy sources such as wind or hydro power. The
GOS views nuclear as a potentially "clean" option to diversify its
energy supplies and enhance its energy security (ref C).
5. (SBU) If there are plans to pursue nuclear power, describe the
anticipated government role in the financing of its civil nuclear
sector. For example, does the government plan to provide subsidies,
tax breaks, loan guarantees, or other financial incentives? Would
some or all nuclear power plants be state-owned and operated? Would
you seek financing from international investment banks and
organizations or consortium arrangements?
The GOS takes an active role in steering the development of new
business sectors to ensure they will be successful and will add
higher value jobs to the economy. The Economic Development Board
(EDB) promotes foreign direct investment in Singapore, which the GOS
has used to develop other energy technologies such as solar, wind
and biofuel refining. Even if Singapore does not consume the
technologies it develops domestically, it continually looks for
opportunities to evolve its economy by bringing in more
sophisticated and higher-value technology manufacturing for export.
It would likely use the same approach to develop the nuclear energy
sector until such a time when it can implement nuclear power
domestically. The EMA would continue to regulate the power sector
and the National Environment Agency (NEA) would likely be the
primary health regulator monitoring risks associated with nuclear
energy. There are also several key government-linked companies that
dominate Singapore's power sector, such as sovereign wealth fund
Temasek and its subsidiaries. It is unclear what their role in
nuclear power might be in the future and what kind of incentives
they might receive to develop that part of the energy mix.
6. (SBU) What are the names and titles of the key nuclear decision
making government bodies and top officials?
The following ministries/agencies and officials are involved in
driving Singapore energy policy:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA): Paul KOH Kok Hong,
Director/Special Duties (Energy). Koh's office in MFA worked with
the Ministry of Trade and Industry to develop Singapore's National
Energy Policy, which was released in November 2007. Koh's office
also helped create the Energy Studies Institute (ESI), a new energy
- Energy Market Authority (EMA): Lawrence Wong, Deputy CEO, and
David Tan, Deputy Chief Executive, Energy Policy and Planning
Division. EMA is the chief energy market regulator. Tan is also
active in ESI.
- Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI): LIM Chee Hwee, Director,
MTI's Energy Division. MTI covers a range of economic issues. EMA
is a statutory board within MTI, as is A*Star (the Agency for
Science, Technology and Research), which could be involved with the
R&D side of nuclear technologies.
- Economic Development Board (EDB): Eugene LEONG Jhi Ghin, Head of
the Energy division within the Energy, Chemicals and Engineering
Services section within EDB.
7. (SBU) Does your country have an existing nuclear regulatory
authority? What are its inspection/enforcement powers? If so, how
large is it (i.e., how many people does it employ)?
If not, are there plans to establish such an authority?
Singapore does not currently have a nuclear regulatory authority
with the responsibility of inspecting nuclear facilities. However,
the NEA includes the Center for Radiation Protection and Nuclear
Science (CRPNS), which acts as the national authority for radiation
protection and nuclear safety in Singapore. The CRPNS represents
Singapore in the IAEA Convention for Radiation Accidents,
Notification and Assistance and the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
CRPNS also has responsibility for coordinating GOS planning and
response to radiological contamination events in Singapore caused by
nuclear accidents in neighboring countries.
8. (SBU) Does your country have a domestic nuclear liability law?
If so, please summarize its major elements. In particular, is there
a minimum level of required liability coverage required for
operation? If your country is not party to an international
liability regime, is there any consideration being given to joining
one? If so, which international liability regime (Vienna
Convention, Paris Convention, Convention on Supplementary
Compensation for Nuclear Damage) is being considered.
Singapore does not have a nuclear liability law in place that
affects the general public. However, the Radiation Protection Act
of 2007 controls the import, export, sale, transport, possession and
use of radioactive materials and irradiating apparatus. In
accordance with the Act, the CRPNS regulates the disposal of
radioactive waste from hospitals, laboratories, and industrial
sites, in line with the specifications of the IAEA TECDOC 855, which
pertains to clearance levels for radioactivity in solid materials.
9. (SBU) Is the manufacturing base in your country (including
high-tech components and heavy industry) involved in nuclear-related
products or services? Does it seem likely that any components or
contracting services for new plants could be sourced locally, or
would the majority of this need to be imported?
Singapore has an advanced, high-tech manufacturing sector, but it
does not include nuclear-related products and services. The GOS,
through the EDB, will likely encourage investment by foreign firms
that offer nuclear-related products or services to develop its own
domestic capabilities in this area.
10. (SBU) How extensive is your country's nuclear-trained
workforce? Does your country have a significant engineering,
technician and construction base that could be readily converted
into a nuclear workforce (e.g., engineers, high precision
manufacturing, robust quality assurance programs, high quality
construction)? Will the development of civil nuclear power require
a significant foreign workforce? Are programs in place, or being
developed, for training of domestic personnel (e.g., in skilled
trades and nuclear regulation)?
Singapore does not have a nuclear-trained workforce. However, it
does have a highly skilled workforce and advanced manufacturing
capability that could be converted to nuclear.
Opportunities for U.S. Industry
11. (SBU) Does your country have any current or anticipated
nuclear-related tenders? If so, please describe the
tender/selection process for new contracts, its timing, and indicate
any U.S. firms considering bidding.
Post is not aware of any nuclear-related tenders in Singapore at
12. (SBU) What nuclear sector opportunities do you foresee for U.S.
industry (e.g., feasibility studies or other consulting services,
plant construction management, reactor sales, fuel cycle service
provision, plant operations, waste management, or logistics)?
Singapore remains an important financial, trade, and high-tech
manufacturing hub with a sophisticated and well-educated workforce.
GOS plans to develop a nuclear industry are still in the development
phase and not entirely clear, but Singapore would likely welcome
discussion of investment from U.S. firms interested in using
Singapore as a base for nuclear technology-related product or
service offerings in Asia.
13. (SBU) If applicable, what are the primary companies (domestic
and foreign) involved in (or considering involvement in) your
country's civil nuclear sector? Please include utilities, plant
operators, fuel cycle service providers, technology vendors, and
major construction or consulting firms.
There are no foreign or domestic companies involved in nuclear power
generation within Singapore at this time. However, companies such
as U.S.-based Thorium Power have visited Singapore to discuss
potential opportunities here. Invensys Process Systems, a
London-based firm specializing in consulting, software and
technologies supporting power and energy companies, has had
operations in Singapore for approximately 30 years. According to
recent press reports, it is exploring nuclear energy opportunities
in Southeast Asia.
14. (SBU) Are there other nuclear supplier countries engaging your
country? Please describe any available details on formal agreements
including existing or potential (1) MOUs on nuclear cooperation; (2)
legal frameworks for nuclear commerce; or (3) arrangements for
technical or information exchanges.
According to FOO Siang-Tse, MTI Deputy Director for Energy Policy,
Singapore does not have any MOUs or agreements on nuclear technology
exchanges or other initiatives with other countries at this time.
15. (SBU) Are there any political considerations your country may
take into account when choosing to cooperate with competing nuclear
Singapore is commercially minded and pragmatic. As noted in public
remarks by LEE Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father, Singapore will
not rule out nuclear energy as an option, but given its small size
and close proximity to countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, it
will have to cooperate with its neighbors to develop safety and
security standards before developing its own nuclear power facility.
End Cable Text