Seoul, July 25: Medco Energi Internasional and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd. have signed a preliminary pact to build a nuclear power plant in Indonesia, drawing ire from environmentalists worried about earthquakes.
Indonesia's mines and energy minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said today that Indonesian and South Korean energy firms had finalised a total of 8.5 billion dollars worth of deals during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's three-day visit to Seoul.
''Now is the time for Indonesia to look for good nuclear power plants,'' said the minister during an energy conference held in the South Korean capital.
Indonesia had said it wanted to build its first nuclear plant by 2016, with a senior official at the country's National Atomic Energy Agency quoted in February as saying it would team up with Japan to develop the plant.
The minister reiterated the deadline of 2016, with a start of operations by 2017.
Indonesia is keen to diversify its energy sources as it faces rising demand and falling output of oil and gas.
However, nuclear energy faces a number of risks, highlighted last week by a radiation leak from the world's biggest nuclear plant after an earthquake in Japan. Indonesia also suffers frequent earthquakes.
Environmental group Greenpeace criticised Jakarta's nuclear plans and said building a nuclear power plant in such a seismically active country would be a mistake.
''By building a nuclear power plant anywhere in Indonesia, millions of people here and in the neighbouring countries will have to live under the real risk of catastrophe,'' Nur Hidayati, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
Other deals signed on the visit include a 5.5 billion dollars direct coal liquefaction project in Indonesia between South Korea's Kenertec Co., POSCO Engineering and Construction, a unit of POSCO Co. Ltd. and PT Nuansa Cipta Coal Investment.
Indonesia's state-led Pertamina also signed an agreement worth about 25 million dollars to cooperate in the upstream sector with SK Energy Co, and state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC).
Purnomo said Indonesia was reviewing more than 20 deals with international partners on natural gas and coal, adding the country sought to increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to top LNG importers such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
South Korea is keen to gain access to global energy resources to drive its energy-hungry economy, while Indonesia needs investment and technology to open up new fields amid declining output and upgrade refineries to feed its rising fuel demand.