World News

Indonesian clerics say nuclear plant forbidden

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A group of Indonesian Muslim clerics have declared that a nuclear power plant due to be built in Central Java is religiously forbidden because its danger outweighs potential benefits, a scholar said on Monday.

Asia-Pacific’s only OPEC member has been trying to promote the use of alternative energy in an effort to reduce its reliance on oil and cut energy costs, and plans to build the nuclear power plant on the Muria Peninsula in Central Java.

But the plan has proved controversial, particularly given the predominantly Muslim nation suffers frequent earthquakes.

Muslim scholars from the local branch of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest Islamic group, met in the Central Java district of Jepara at the weekend to discuss the issue.

They agreed that the plant would endanger the lives of people in the area and was therefore forbidden under Islam, said Ahmad Rozikin, one of the scholars.

“We concluded that its downsides outweigh potential benefits from the plant. It threatens the survival of human beings in the area,” Rozikin told Reuters.

NU Secretary General Syaiful Bahri said the fatwa was reached at district level and that the issue remained controversial.

“There are still disagreements, even among those who attended the meeting,” he said.

The proposed plant would have a capacity to produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity to help meet rising demand from the country’s 220 million people and is likely to cost $1.5 billion.

State electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara plans to build power plants to generate 10,000 megawatts by 2010 to meet rising demand and avoid power shortages.

The chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said Indonesia should not face any problem in its plan to develop civilian nuclear energy because it had met its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But environmental group Greenpeace said in July that building a nuclear power plant in such a seismically active country would be a mistake.