Senate to probe Philippine’s nuclear energy program
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on energy will look into the status of the country’s nuclear energy program as the Duterte administration is set to decide on a recommendation to tap nuclear fuels for stable power supply, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said yesterday.

Gatchalian, chairman of the committee, filed a resolution for an inquiry on the status of the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization (NEPIO) in pursuit of his call for transparency in the government’s nuclear initiatives.

“A comprehensive, transparent and public discussion must be made on the merits of a national nuclear program taking into consideration the social, economic, environmental and technical effects and requirements of such a program,” he said.

He added that the development of a nuclear power program in any country requires three phases marked by a specific milestone and the completion of 19 infrastructure requirements, which necessitate specific actions during each of these three phases as indicated in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s milestones in the development of a national infrastructure for nuclear power.

The Philippines, according to the senator, is currently completing phase one, which commenced when the DOE issued Department Order 2016-10-0013 in 2016, creating the NEPIO, which is tasked to explore the development and inclusion of nuclear energy in the country’s electric power supply.

Phase two requires preparation for the contracting and construction of a nuclear power plant after a policy decision has been made, and its milestone is an invitation to bid or negotiate a contract for the power plant.

Meanwhile, phase three details the activities necessary to implement the first nuclear power plant, and its milestone is the commissioning and operation of such activities.

Gatchalian said the NEPIO has transmitted a communication to the Office of the President, dated April 16, 2018, containing the following recommendations: approval of a National Position to Embark on a Nuclear Power Program (NPP), issuance of an executive order in relation thereto and filing and/or certification as urgent existing bills providing for a nuclear regulatory and legal framework.

He added that IAEA officials visited the country in February last year for preliminary discussions with the DOE and the Department of Science and Technology for the development of nuclear power as part of the Philippines’ power mix.

The IAEA officials again visited the Philippines last December for the completion of an eight-day Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) assessing the country’s readiness in adopting nuclear power.

This resulted in the creation of an INIR Mission Report, which contains specific recommendations and suggestions as well as identified good practices of the Philippine government in the introduction of nuclear power in the country.

Gatchalian, however, pointed out that the DOE has not made these proposals and assessments and the IAEA’s INIR Mission Report available to the public, or even to Congress.

He had earlier called on the DOE to be more transparent in its nuclear program agenda amid reports that the Philippines and Russia signed a deal on exploring the possible construction of a nuclear power plant.

The senator made the call during the hearing on the DOE’s proposed 2020 budget.

He pushed for the scrutiny of the nuclear energy program after a memorandum of intent was signed by Philippine and Russian officials during President Duterte’s visit to Moscow last week “to jointly explore the prospects of cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants in the Philippines.”

A proposal to build a floating nuclear power plant in the country was also forwarded by Russia.

One of world's worst nuclear disasters occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which was blamed on a flawed Soviet reactor in Ukraine, at the time part of the Soviet Union.

NUCLEAR ENERGY SHERWIN GATCHALIAN
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