Legal framework for nuclear power needed – Sen. Gatchalian
Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines needs to finalize the legal framework for the development of nuclear technology as a national power source, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian said the country has yet to ratify three key international nuclear conventions, namely the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, and the amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

 “A strong national framework on nuclear power must be compliant with international standards on safety, security, safeguards, and liability,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy.

At present, the country’s only existing nuclear energy body is the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), whose functions center around radiation and nuclear research and development.

“All of the gaps in our nuclear energy legal framework would first need to be addressed by passing comprehensive legislation,” Gatchalian said.

The lawmaker said the country still has a lot to learn from more advanced countries with respect to the development of nuclear power.

“There is a wide range of issues that we need to explore and thresh out before we can accurately measure the true potential of nuclear technology as an alternative energy source in the Philippines,” he said.

 If the Philippines should decide to pursue adding nuclear power to the energy mix, a comprehensive legal framework on the use of nuclear power would first need to be crafted to tackle issues, Gatchalian said.

These issues include the structure and powers of the regulatory body; licensing, inspection, and enforcement; radiation protection, sources of radiation and radioactive material, safety of nuclear facilities; emergency preparedness and response; transport of radioactive material, radioactive waste and spent fuel; nuclear liability and coverage, non-proliferation and physical protection; export and import controls and physical protection.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is studying the possibility of adding nuclear power to the country’s energy mix.

Last month, DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the agency submitted a proposed national policy on nuclear energy to President Duterte for approval.

He said the proposed national policy not only covers the use of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), but also the development of modular nuclear power plants across the country.

Earlier this year, results of a technical cooperation between DOE and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed the use of nuclear power could be a viable long-term energy option for the Philippines.

The report touched on the possible cooperation in other areas, such as human resource development, nuclear safety, legal and regulatory framework, international standards, cooperation with international community, stakeholders involvement and challenges which includes the closure on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) issue.

The report will be part of the agency’s recommendations, which will be submitted to the President.

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