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Nuke program concerns being addressed

Maria Romero

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The Department of Energy (DoE) over the weekend vowed to address public concerns about the use of nuclear power to achieve long term energy security and sufficiency as the country goes full speed on its Nuclear Energy Program (NEP).

This came after President Rodrigo Duterte has given the green light to study the viability of nuclear power as an energy source through the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 116.

Energy chief Alfonso G. Cusi assured an international forum over the weekend that there is already a comprehensive and integrated communication plan, which will be intensified to ensure that the country will be energy sufficient in no time.

“Given that the idea of harnessing nuclear power for our energy needs is a highly politicized issue in our country, we have been working to ensure that public and stakeholder acceptance is fully and properly addressed,” Secretary Cusi said.

Based on a survey by the Social Weather Stations commissioned by the DoE, survey respondents are already aware that nuclear energy possesses both benefits and risks, adding that 78 percent of the respondents are willing to learn more about nuclear energy.

The survey also showed a 79 percent approval rating on the possible use or rehabilitation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and a 65 percent approval rating on building a new nuclear power plant.

Likewise, 70 percent of the respondents wanting to have government funds to finance the construction of a nuclear power plant is also a good indicator of the acceptability of nuclear energy.

“With such a positive turnout, I feel that now is time for intensified and informed public discussions on nuclear energy and its potential role in the Philippine energy security agenda,” he pointed out.

Cusi underscored that the use of nuclear power would benefit our people by enhancing our energy supply levels and help shield our consumers from traditional power price volatilities in the long run.

According to him, energy supplied by a nuclear power plant is considerably more secure as compared with plants that are powered by fossil fuels, which require constant feeds of coal or gas.

He added that engaging in nuclear technology calls for the assistance and mentorship of countries that already have knowledge of nuclear energy such as China, Russia, Korea and France.

The Philippines was one of the first Southeast Asian countries to embark on a nuclear power program with the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission in 1958.

Two decades later after the Commission’s establishment, the country became host to Southeast Asia’s only nuclear power plant in the 1980s — the 621-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

Prior to EO 116, Secretary Cusi said the Philippine Energy Plan already projects the inclusion of nuclear power in our energy mix by 2027.

With the evolution of Small Modular Reactors that are suitable for the off-grid or island areas of the Philippines, Cusi said that the possibility of establishing a modular power plant in the country might come sooner.

“This would depend on the passage of necessary legislative policies on nuclear power, which are among the bills that have been certified as urgent, and must be passed by the present Congress,” he added.

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