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Singapore plans to build a pool of 100 nuclear experts

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Singapore, Apr 4 (PTI) Singapore is planning to build a pool of approximately 100 nuclear energy experts in the medium to long run, though no decision has been made on the deployment of nuclear energy, and the city-state is unable to commit to a timeline for taking a position on it.

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This was stated in Parliament by the Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng on Wednesday in response to a question posed by opposition Member of Parliament Gerald Giam.

Giam from the Workers’ Party had asked how many scientists were currently at the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative, as well as the number of scholarships awarded each year to help build a pipeline of nuclear scientists and expertise.

Giam also asked if the government is building up the necessary regulatory policy frameworks that will be needed to oversee potential nuclear energy programmes such as nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.

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In his response, Tan said the government supports efforts to train scientists and experts in local and overseas universities.

Over the last decade, the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has awarded 30 scholarships for postgraduate studies in areas related to nuclear science and engineering. It has also developed a pipeline of around 40 researchers specialising in radiobiology, radiochemistry and nuclear safety, the Channel News Asia reported.

“We aim to build up a pool of about 100 experts in the medium to long run,” Tan was quoted as saying by CNA.

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On nuclear fusion, the minister acknowledged that there is “a lot of excitement” in the fusion space. “To date, on a sustainable basis, the net energy input needed to create that nuclear fusion reaction far exceeds the output of the energy that we can harness,” he added.

“For nuclear fusion, to answer the question, I think it's still quite nascent, and we are probably at least a decade away,” Tan said, adding, nonetheless, the government is watching the space very closely and “nothing is off the table”.

“We continue to keep our options open to all kinds of low carbon energy, including, of course, nuclear energy, both fission and fusion,” he said.

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Giam also asked Dr Tan when is the government going to take a position on whether to use nuclear energy as part of Singapore’s energy mix in the future.

Tan said: “I think that the member presupposes that we made a decision on nuclear energy.” Reiterating that the government has not made a decision, Tan said Singapore has to wait for a small modular reactor or the newer generation of thermal reactors to be deployed commercially, and understand the safety profile before making a decision.

This is because the safety buffer zone for conventional nuclear generators like the first and second generations is beyond Singapore's radius.

“I think this as far as we can tell you. We will not be able to commit to a particular timeline. But that doesn't mean that we stop looking at it,” Tan said. PTI GS SCY SCY

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