Nuclear power: will property prices implode?

In Economy, Energy, Property on 12/11/2010 at 5:23 am

In 2008, I attended a seminar where a very senior Shell analyst dismissed the possibility of nuclear energy as an option for S’pore. He said that if a nuclear plant was sited on the NE side of S’pore, the safety or protection zone would stretch somewhere to the SW side of S’pore, in Jurong.

So with all the recent talk of building a nuclear power plant, I was surprised that there doesn’t seem to be anything said or written on safety issues.

For example what are safety zones and their extent?

Googling brought me to the website of the US Dept of Homeland Security: Local and state governments, federal agencies, and the electric utilities have emergency response plans in the event of a nuclear power plant incident. The plans define two “emergency planning zones.” One zone covers an area within a 10-mile radius of the plant, where it is possible that people could be harmed by direct radiation exposure. The second zone covers a broader area, usually up to a 50-mile radius from the plant, where radioactive materials could contaminate water supplies, food crops, and livestock.

So a 10-mile (16-km) zone is needed to prevent us from being exposed to direct radiation. To give you an idea of the distances involved, Changi Airport is 20 km from Orchard Rd. So if the plant were at Changi Airport, the zone would include Toa Payoh, AMK, Bishan, Marine Parade and some pretty posh places along Dunearn Rd and Bukit Timah Rd. And although the Istana is not within the 16 km radius, radioactive particles don’t know where the 16-km mark is. It all depends on weather conditions how far they will travel. Hence the wider zone given by the analyst from Shell: he added a margin just to be cautious.

OK, we can mitigate by having a nuclear plant on Tekong. But I doubt the M’sians would be happy. The 16-km radius, and 80-km radii would reach into Johor. Even a plant at Changi, will affect Johor if there is a problem.

So unless nuclear plants become so safe that one could have a zone of 800m, we all risk exposure to radiation if a plant is built anywhere here.

Would anyone willingly want to live or work within a 16-km radius of a nuclear plant? I know the risk of an accident are very, very low: but we now know that we are bad at calculating the odds for any low probability, catastrophic event. I have yet been able to find (via Goggle) any existing or planned nuclear plant within a 16-km radius of a major population centre, let alone a global city or a wannabe one.

S’poreans may be willing to put up living and working in the shadow of a nuclear plant: we put up with a lot of abuse from our government and the FTs.

But tourists; Swiss bankers and their overseas clients; billionaires and other FTs from countries more cautious on nuclear safety issues are likely to be scared to visit or live in a city where they can get exposed to radiation if there is a nuclear accident.

If there are no FTs, there goes the value of yr HDB flat, or condo apartment, or landed property,or so we are told by the same government that seems rather keen on nuclear energy.

Hmm might be a gd Faustian bargain: lower property prices, no FTs.

But nothing may happen. In the late 1970s, I met a science teacher. He had been given a scholarship to study nuclear physics. But by the time he graduated, S’pore scrapped its plans for nuclear energy. He was sent to teach science at Victoria Institution.

  1. How about siting it on Pedra Blanca?

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