Nuclear energy still a long term option for Philippines

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The inclusion of nuclear power to the country’s energy mix still has a long way to go, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

DOE OIC-director for energy policy and planning bureau Michael Sinocruz said the use of nuclear energy in the country would require satisfying the 19 infrastructure requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),  which is the international regulator for nuclear energy.

“Again, this (the use of nuclear energy) will depend on whether we can satisfy the 19 infrastructure issues of the IAEA to include even the safety, security, and even the waste management for nuclear. Otherwise, if we are not able to satisfy even one of these 19,  we will not embark on nuclear energy,” Sinocruz said.

“So, this nuclear energy is still a long term option for the Philippines for power generation,” he said.

Through a so-called milestones approach, the IAEA  provides a phased comprehensive method to assist countries that are considering or planning their first nuclear power plant.

Sinocruz said the country, at present, is still in the first stage and has so far reached milestone one.

“We now have a national position. It was issued by the former president, through Executive Order 164, providing the national position of the government to the study further the development or the introduction of nuclear energy in the Philippines,” he said.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte in February signed EO 164 to assess the possibility of including nuclear power in the country’s energy mix, recognizing it as “a reliable, cost-competitive, and environment-friendly source of energy.”

Sinocruz said the DOE’s primary focus when it comes to nuclear energy, at present, is on the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), which have a capacity between 50 megawatts (MW) up to 300 MW.

“So, why this small modular reactor? We’re looking at whether we can deploy this SMR to off-grid areas for them to have a more reliable source of electricity,” he said.

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla earlier said there is a need to have a regulatory and policy framework in place first with regards to the proposed use of nuclear energy in the country.

“We’ve always taken the position that we should not ban technologies, but we should set standards. The Philippines has been the earliest supporter of the peaceful uses of nuclear power,” he said.

Sinocruz previously said the DOE plans to conduct another perception survey on nuclear energy.

A strategic communication plan is also being formulated to educate the public about nuclear energy.

A perception survey on the acceptance of nuclear energy done in 2019, according to Sinocruz, showed favorable results in terms of acceptance of nuclear energy as part of the energy mix of the country.

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