The Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC) hopes the bill to safeguard the country's nuclear power will be tabled in Parliament next year at the latest.
The bill, which will replace the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 (Act 304), will pave the way for the country to have its own nuclear power generator as early as 2030.
MNPC chief executive officer Mohd Zamzam Jaafar said even though the government had decided against having a nuclear power generator before 2030, its development programme was still progressing to ensure that the country would have clean energy sources by then.
"Once the Act comes into force, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board will be transformed into the Malaysia Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission, which will determine the criteria to licence nuclear power generators in the country," Mohd Zamzam told Bernama on the sidelines of the Public Understanding of Nuclear Energy Seminar in Putrajaya yesterday.
He said the promulgation of the Act is important to enable the country to take the next step, that is signing international law agreements related to nuclear technology.
"By becoming one of the signatories, Malaysia will gain wider access to nuclear technology," he said.
Mohd Zamzam said the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry submitted a draft of the bill to the Attorney-General's Chambers in 2015 for its perusal.
In order for Malaysia to have nuclear energy by 2030 or 2031, a tender to build a nuclear energy power generator must be issued by 2021, as it would take about 10 to 11 years for it to become fully operational, he said, adding that a site feasibility study had to be approved first before the tender could be issued.
Phase 1 Mission Report to be ready in March
The tabling of the bill will be preceded by a parliamentary presentation of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review - Phase 1 Mission Report which is expected to be ready in March, he added.
Mohd Zamzam said the report emanated from a visit by 10 IAEA experts, as well other international experts, who scrutinised the country's progress in the nuclear power development programme over the past five years.
He said the report would provide a clear picture of the country's readiness in taking the next step in developing nuclear energy.
As a body in charge of the country's planning, spearheading and coordinating the nuclear power development programme, the MNPC had also undertaken several initiatives to raise public awareness on nuclear energy.
Set up on Jan 7, 2011 as a company with limited guarantee under the Prime Minister's Department, the MNPC is a Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organisation to facilitate the establishment of an entity to implement the programme in the country.
Speaking at the seminar, MNPC director Dominic Lau Hoe Chai said any introduction of nuclear energy for electricity generation would involve a commitment of at least a century from the government and all stakeholders.
This included the commitment to maintain a sustainable national infrastructure, right from planning, selection of suitable sites, construction, commissioning and operation of the nuclear power plants to decommissioning, as well as, waste disposal and management.
"This requires a sound basis of national decision-making, founded on objective studies and assessment of national capabilities and state preparedness, supported by public awareness, understanding and acceptance," Lau told the seminar.
Lau said apart from the development of the plants itself, the nuclear power programme required a long lead time to cultivate a critical mass of domestic talent, capable of supporting any future initiative.
"We have to make an early start so that if a decision is made, Malaysia has a talent pool that is ready and available," he added.
He said the talent pool required is not only limited to nuclear engineers and scientists, but also a wide range of engineering, scientific and other fields.
"It includes those with expertise in other areas such as project management, public health, energy economics, finance and many more," Lau added.
The one-day Public Understanding of Nuclear Energy Seminar, which was held with the cooperation of the Japan Atomic Industry Forum International Cooperation Centre, was one such initiative undertaken by the MNPC.
The seminar was aimed at boosting public understanding of nuclear energy based on the Japanese experience, as the country had been relying on the energy for more than five decades.