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Nuke power plant soon; not in Bataan

Maria Romero



The House of Representatives will help the government pursue the development of a nuclear power plant to ensure energy security in the future.

But reviving the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, a vestige of the late Ferdinand Marcos’ strongman’s rule, is highly unlikely, newly-installed House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday told Daily Tribune’s “Straight Talk” program.

Velasco said the promotion of the country’s energy resources, through nuclear power plants, should be pursued but without sacrificing the country’s national security. This will include the safety of residents of the province to host the would-be power plant.

“The residents should be consulted first before we proceed with a plan,” Velasco said.

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 (PAEC) 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.

Its construction started in 1976, with a total investment of $2.3 billion by the time it was completed in 1984. However, the plant’s operation was never pursued.

“(I support the nuclear power development) but since most grids are in Bataan… the plant is likely to be built in another site,” Velasco said.

He added that there is an imperative need to revisit the country’s policy on nuclear energy and to determine its feasibility as a long-term option for power generation.

Development in full speed
Meanwhile, Department of Energy (DoE) chief Alfonso G. Cusi said the development of more energy resources is “in full speed” after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to study the possible adoption of nuclear energy as a power source.

Cusi said the president’s move was a welcome development as it would commence the development and use of nuclear energy in the country in time for the spiking public demand for stable and sufficient electricity.

Not a few experts attest to the safety of nuclear use for power generation.

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

“I believe that once we have successfully addressed infrastructure gaps and we have fulfilled all other necessary national requirements, our people and future generations will reap the economic benefits a nuclear energy program brings,” Cusi said.

Executive Order 116, signed by the President on 24 July, provides for the creation of the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) to be chaired by the DoE, with the Department of Science and Technology as vice chair.

The inter-agency body is mandated to primarily conduct a study for the adoption of a National Position on a Nuclear Energy Program (NEP).

The government has long been exploring nuclear power as a viable energy source in line with the global push to reduce fossil fuel use due to its hazardous carbon emissions.

In a previous interview, Cusi pointed out that the public’s perception of nuclear energy is also changing as reflected in the nationwide survey that the DoE commissioned last year.

However, the government official previously declared that he wanted to ensure that adequate security measures are in place before considering a nuclear energy program for the country.

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.

Under the Philippine Energy Plan 2016-2030, the government is pushing towards a “responsive and dynamic” energy mix to support the growing industrialization and expected increase in energy demand.