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Floating nuke offered

Russia proposed to the Philippines a project to build a floating nuclear power plant.

Chito Lozada

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So others may know President Rodrigo Duterte (center) honors fallen Soviet soldiers who fought in World War 2 during the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow with members of his Cabinet, legislators and other officials in the background. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

A sea change is in the offing for the energy sector after Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom and the Department of Energy (DoE) signed an agreement on Friday to introduce the use of nuclear power in the country to stabilize electricity supply.

The agreement includes the possibility of Rosatom deploying floating generators, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

A letter of intent was signed at the Russian-Philippine business forum in Moscow on the sidelines of the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Russia.

Rosatom’s chief executive officer Alexei Likhachev said Russia proposed to the Philippines a project to build a floating nuclear power plant.

DoE Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the agreement with Rosatom both referred to the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and the setting up of a new power source.

“They will evaluate BNPP if it can still be made operational and study the possibility of a new plant in another area,” Cusi told Daily Tribune.

If the plan for a floating nuclear generator pulls through, it will only be the second such facility. Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant called Akademik Lomonosov is docked at the port of Pevek in the far eastern Chukotka Peninsula since last month. It is expected to start generating electricity before the end of the year.

“There are several ways to develop the nuclear energy industry in the Philippines, to reboot the existing power plant, which has been mothballed and the Filipinos keep it in a very acceptable condition or to build another station, but also of a large capacity,” Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation director general Alexei Likhachev said.

“A more interesting approach, which we also proposed to our friends, are small-capacity nuclear plants, including floating ones,” Likhachev added.

During a bilateral meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, the Russian side was interested in developing cooperation with the Philippines in the field of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The BNPP has been maintained in a remarkable condition, which an ocular inspection last 1 September 2017 among government officials and experts attested to.

Long engagement

The DoE and Rosatom earlier agreed on a nuclear cooperation program under a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) signed at the sidelines on Monday during the 12th East Asia Summit in November 2017.

“The cooperation with Russia is part of the government’s intention to develop a variety of applications for nuclear energy that are within our policies particularly for power generation,” Cusi said.

He also pointed out that through the MoC, the Philippines can benefit from the vast experience of Russia in the safe use of nuclear and emerging technologies for the purpose of power generation.

The undertakings in the MoC would support the Philippines in coming up with a national position and the crafting of a nuclear energy policy that may lead to a nuclear energy program, he added.

The Energy chief said under the MoC, the Philippines and Russia agree to conduct studies on nuclear infrastructure and the audit and assessment on the condition of the BNPP and possible options for its use or rehabilitation.

The MoC also allows both parties to conduct similar studies on nuclear power plants in general as may be deemed necessary and consistent with national energy development plans and policies of the Philippines.

Both the Philippines and Russia are part of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and are parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Both countries indicated that the energy cooperation will be implemented through joint working groups, which will undertake specific projects, exchange of experts, workshops and training of personnel and sharing of technical information.

The MoC is good for five years with the option to be renewed for the same period unless one party notifies the other through diplomatic channels of either one’s intention to suspend or terminate the agreement.

75% of baseload assured

DoE Undersecretary Donato Marcos explained nuclear power can provide 75 percent of the country’s base load requirement.

“Strong economic growth and rising population will require more energy, plus the need for increased power capacity. Nuclear energy has proven to be economically viable, highly reliable and may contribute towards reducing the high cost of electricity and carbon dioxide emissions,” Marcos said.

Foreign experts like Jose Bastos of the Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development Section of the IAEA emphasized that a nuclear energy program is a long-term engagement that requires careful planning, preparation and investments in time, finances and human resources.

Dr. Ahmed Abdulla, a post-doctoral fellow from the University of California-San Diego, acknowledged that nuclear energy has lesser carbon emissions.

“We need nuclear technology. It’s not just for energy purposes but also for agricultural, medical, industrial and commercial applications,” Marcos noted in a recent forum.

Russian moguls wooed

President Rodrigo Duterte, citing significant strides in Philippines-Russia relations since assuming office, also urged Russian business leaders to pour investments into the country as he underscored government initiatives for foreign companies.

“We are one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and the second fastest in the ASEAN. Our economic advantage lies on the strength of our young workforce — population. Our macroeconomic fundamentals remain strong,” the President said in his speech during the Philippines–Russia Business Forum in Moscow held Friday night.

“We invite because we feel that investors have shown a strong trust and confidence in my administration with record-breaking investments. We invite our Russian friends to invest and do more business in the Philippines,” he continued.

By doing business in the Philippines, the Chief Executive assured foreign investors that they will enjoy competitive fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to jumpstart qualified investment projects from infancy to maturity of business operations.

Fruitful success

The official visit has been fruitful, with the government’s campaign against terrorism earning praises from Putin, according to Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

“Russia is very much willing to help our government quell terrorism,” said Go.

He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately congratulated Mr. Duterte in his fight against terrorism on the first instance they met.

With the security relations between the Philippines and Russia strengthened, Go said he expected this spills over to the economic sector through groundbreaking business deals signed between Filipino and Russian companies which can generate economic opportunities for Filipinos.

With Kristina Maralit

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