The Philippines urgently needs to decide whether or not it will use nuclear energy as it is running out of natural gas in the Malampaya field, energy think thank Environmental Progress (EP) said.
EP founder and President Michael Shellenberger said during Tuesday’s “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune,” a correct decision will prevent the country from falling into another energy crisis.
“The Philippines is running out of natural gas in Malampaya. So, you need to get started so that you don’t have to go back to blackouts and brownouts,” he said.
Uncertainties in energy supply will also push investors to review their decision to locate in the country.
“If the industries don’t think they can trust the Philippines to have cheap, reliable energy, they are going to go to other countries. You know, Korea is a rich country now even though it did not have its own energy, and it was not afraid of nuclear,” he said.
Shellenberger added accidents do happen involving nuclear power plants, but these do not mean a crisis situation similar to the accident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan after the country was hit by a combined earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
“They got scared after Fukushima, too, but when they take a look at it, they go, this is the best way to make energy,” he said.
Shellenberger said the country has a ready solution to its energy problem that it had ignored for so long.
“Here, you have a nuclear plant. It’s been sitting there for 30 years in Bataan and nobody wants to turn it on. Meanwhile, you’re killing yourself by burning coal and wood and smoke. So, how many people have died in the Philippines because of these superstitious fears of nuclear power?” he said.
It gets worse since the Philippines does not have its own energy, “so you have to pay billions of dollars a year to foreign countries, including the United States, Australia, Indonesia, to import energy.”
Thus, electricity prices in the Philippines are three times higher than the cost of electricity in South Korea, he noted.
“I spent some time in South Korea, and it does not also have its energy. Why does it spend one-third as much on electricity as the Philippines? Because they have nuclear power,” he added.
He noted that while nuclear power also needs the importation of fuel, the cost would be far lower.
“Fuel is just 20 percent of the cost of nuclear energy as opposed to 70 to 80 percent on natural gas, coal. So, if you want to grow as an economy, the per capita income in the Philippines is like $3,000 a year, in Korea, it’s more like $30,000, ten times higher,” he said.
“If you want to grow and become a big economy, good jobs, high-paying jobs, you have to lower the price of energy, and the only way to lower the price of energy is with nuclear power,” he added.
HAPPENING NOW: TED Talk of Mr. Michael Shellenberger on Why We Need Nuclear Energy. #DOEPH 🇵🇭 #EPowerMo #ESafety #ESecure #EDiskarte #Ambisyon2040
Posted by Department of Energy Philippines on Tuesday, 22 January 2019
Sum not unreasonable
He said reactivating the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNBPP) remains possible despite its being mothballed since 1986 when former President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.
“I have no interest in any of this, but you could get proposals from different countries. The South Koreans came, they visited Bataan and they estimated that it will cost about $1 billion to get that up and running,” he said.
He said the cost may look huge at first glance, but the country should consider the $350 million to $400 million spent yearly on importing coal.
“You can replace that and the plant can pay itself in three years,” he said.
“If you really want to grow as an economy, there has to be a long-term plan. People have to come to an agreement and that means that people have to learn the facts. I think that’s incumbent to journalists, like yourselves and others because ordinary people, they will not be going to do all the research,” he added.
Shellenberger said he wrote an open letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, signed by some of the world’s most famous climate and environmental scientists. He said in the bottom “we put all the sources of the data, where does the information come from, so people can find out for themselves.”
He added the environmental benefits of nuclear power come from the fact that you don’t need very much fuel, so this amount of uranium fuel, in a nuclear plant, can provide all the energy needed for a lifetime for Filipinos.
Palawan share denied
The province of Palawan, meanwhile, is not entitled to have a share in the proceeds of Camago-Malampaya natural gas project, the Supreme Court ruled.
Palawan premised its claim on the ground that it has territorial jurisdiction over the Camago-Malampaya reservoir.
The Camago-Malampaya natural gas project is covered by Service Contract 38 between the Republic or national government and the contractor which was subsequently composed of a consortium of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Occidental Philippines Inc. (SPEX/OXY).
In a consolidated decision penned by Justice Noel Gimenez Tijam, the court en banc granted the petition of the Republic in GR 170867 to reverse and set aside the 16 December 2005 decision of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan, Branch 95 in the civil case declaring the province is entitled to the 40 percent share of the government’s earnings.
The supposed share will be derived from the Camago-Malampaya natural gas project since 16 October 2001.