Cooling towers of nuclear power plant against the sky.

SINGAPORE: Singapore is planning to build a pool of approximately 100 nuclear energy experts. Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr Tan See Leng, shared this insight on Wednesday, April 3, in response to queries from Member of Parliament Gerald Giam.

Channel News Asia reported that Mr Giam (WP-Aljunied) asked about Singapore’s current efforts in nuclear research and development. He asked the number of scientists engaged in the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative and the allocation of scholarships to nurture future nuclear experts.

He also probed into the government’s initiatives on regulatory policies essential for potential nuclear energy programmes like nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.

Dr Tan affirmed the government’s backing for the training of scientists, both for local and universities overseas.

Over the past decade, the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative, housed at the National University of Singapore (NUS), has awarded 30 scholarships for postgraduate studies in nuclear science and engineering. This initiative has fostered approximately 40 researchers focusing on radiochemistry, radiobiology, and nuclear safety.

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Dr Tan said, “We aim to build up a pool of about 100 experts in the medium to long run.”

However, he remained cautious about the deployment of nuclear energy, refraining from committing to a specific timeline. He acknowledged there is “a lot of excitement” surrounding nuclear fusion but noted the technology’s developmental nature, estimating that “we are probably at least a decade away.”

Despite the uncertainty, Dr Tan assured that the government is watching, keeping all low-carbon energy options, including nuclear fission and fusion, on the table.

Another question Mr Giam asked: “Does the minister agree that it’s important to provide some certainty or more certainty to both aspiring scientists and our people with regard to the use of nuclear energy?”

Responding to Mr Giam’s question about the government’s stance on nuclear energy, Dr Tan emphasised that no decision had been made yet.

He stressed the need to wait for advancements in small modular reactors or newer thermal reactors, alongside a thorough understanding of safety protocols.

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He also said the government acknowledges the importance of radiological safety and understanding operational capabilities in nuclear science as something “important and relevant” in Singapore. He noted that local talent is continually trained, sent overseas, and attached to institutions to gain expertise and absorb knowledge.

Dr Tan said, “So that at some point in time when we have finally made a decision, we will then bring them back here. 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.”

When asked about uranium stockpiling, Dr Tan clarified that Singapore has no plans for it.

He noted that in any deployment decision, detailed study on safety, affordability, reliability, and environmental sustainability is required.

He added, “We are therefore steadily building capabilities to better understand and assess global developments on advanced nuclear energy technologies.” /TISG

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