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Duterte hopes BBM would go nuclear

It would be ‘good’ for any government to transition from fossil oil fuel, whose supply is limited and costly, to nuclear which is more efficient

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Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte said he hopes his successor, Bongbong Marcos Jr., would explore nuclear energy as an alternative power source to reduce the Philippines’ dependence on fossil fuels.

The energy department will turn over its initiatives on the shift to nuclear energy to the incoming administration, according to Malacañang.

Duterte on Monday night stressed the need to consider tapping nuclear energy for the country despite safety concerns amid hostilities in Eastern Europe that have severely affected global oil supply and prices.

“I hope that the next administration would at least explore the possibility of nuclear (energy),” he said, noting that Bongbong’s father, former President Ferdinand Marcos, had initiated the building of the Philippines’ first and only nuclear power plant.

Duterte said it would be “good” for any government to transition from fossil oil fuel, whose supply is limited and costly, to nuclear which is more efficient.

“You know, oil is not infinite. It won’t last forever,” he said. “Someday it will dry up.”

Yet, Duterte also noted the risks in shifting to nuclear, recalling the April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, considered the worst nuclear disaster in history — in casualties and cost.

The President himself made efforts to push for nuclear energy, via Executive Order 116 in 2020, to create an inter-agency committee that conducted a study on the feasibility of introducing nuclear energy to the country’s power generation mix.

In 2019, the Philippines signed a memorandum of intent with Moscow-based Rosatom Overseas to “jointly explore the prospects of cooperation” in the construction of nuclear power plants.

“All departments, including the Department of Energy, have formed their transition teams and we are sure this matter on nuclear energy will be part of reports (that will be turned over to the incoming administration),” said presidential spokesperson Secretary Martin Andanar.

The Philippines built the US2.3 billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) during the Marcos presidency at the height of the 1973 oil crisis.

The 620-megawatt plant began construction in 1976 and was almost finished in 1984, but mothballed due to safety issues and charges of corruption.

Talks on reviving the BNPP floated during the campaign season, with Marcos signaling his determination to pursue his father’s venture to bring down electricity costs in the country.

The Daily Tribune reached out to Marcos’s camp for comment on Duterte’s remarks, but has yet to receive a reply at press time.

In previous instances, however, the incoming president had said that he would revisit the BNPP.

Bongbong said he met South Korean Ambassador to Manila Kim Inchul last Monday, 22 May, to discuss a proposal to revive the power plant.

The BNPP was located on a 3.57 square kilometer government reservation at Napot Point in Morong Bataan and 80 kilometers west of Manila.

Critics argued that renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are cheaper and safer to produce in a country that is no stranger to earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions.

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