BY SUJIN THOMAS
IT MAY be a long time before any decision is taken on nuclear energy but Singapore should ready itself to do so, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
He said that preparations would give the country the ability to exercise such an option should this become necessary and feasible one day.
Mr Lee was delivering the Singapore Energy Lecture for the first time at the Suntec Ballroom where he referred to nuclear energy as an "important part of the solution to mankind's energy problems".
The lecture was held as part of the annual Singapore International Energy Week.
He was speaking to an audience of about 800 people made up of businessmen, industry experts and government officials.
Mr Lee said that several countries in South-east Asia have expressed their intention to build nuclear power plants - a challenge which will be faced even more by developing countries than developed ones.
For Singapore, he raised concerns such as safety due to the country's small size, which stretches about 40km from east to west.
He said: "It's very difficult to put it (a nuclear power plant) very far from population because nobody in Singapore is far from population.
"Yet we cannot afford to dismiss the option of nuclear energy altogether."
As part of building up its capabilities, Singapore should keep up with new developments and learn from the experiences of other countries.
The country should also get in touch with experts in the field of nuclear energy and train a few of its own experts in the field.
He added: "Then we can critically assess developments in nuclear technology and decide on the feasibility of nuclear-power deployment one day in the future."
When he called for questions from the floor, Mr Lee was asked if it would happen during his time in office.
He replied: "I would say possibly during my lifetime."
Earlier on, he said that Singapore, which he referred to as "an alternative energy-disadvantaged country", is readying itself for a future world which will be fossil fuel-constrained and carbon- constrained.
He said that the country would have to put a price on carbon if a global agreement to curb carbon emissions is reached.
This additional charge - which all businesses and consumers must pay - will reflect the social costs of carbon emissions and is needed to induce consumers to change their behaviour.
Mr Lee did not specify whether it would come in the form of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme.
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