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France ready to assist Philippines in nuclear energy transition, other renewables

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
France ready to assist Philippines in nuclear energy transition, other renewables
This photo taken on April 5, 2022 shows an employee checking switches inside the control room at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Morong in Bataan province. The nuclear power plant built in the disaster-prone Philippines during Ferdinand Marcos's regime, but never switched on due to safety fears and corruption, could be revived if his son wins the May 9 presidential poll.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippines transitions into putting renewables at the forefront of its energy mix, France said it can lend its expertise to Manila on nuclear energy as well as other renewable energy sources.

In a press conference on Tuesday, French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz said they are already in talks with the new administration. Despite discussions still being in the “early stages,” Paris is ready to assist the Philippines with its “innovative competence.”

However, Boccoz said the Philippines will first need to outline its nuclear energy framework, look at regulatory environment issues, and identify the kind of training its personnel would need to maintain the nuclear plants.

“Developing this project is not going to happen this year or next year. It will take time and maybe you’d have more details on this process,” Boccoz said.

Majority or 70% of France is said to be powered by nuclear energy, while 27% is sourced through hydroelectricity and only 3% comes from gas. The European country plans to further diversify its energy mix with other renewables such as hydropower, biomass and solar energy in the near future.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Philippines needs to reconsider building nuclear power plants to address the power crisis.

Over half of the Philippines’ energy mix is currently sourced through coal. The country is now scrambling to look for alternative sources of energy as its main source — the Malampaya gas field — is expected to be depleted by 2027 at the latest.

“We will comply of course with the International Atomic Energy Agency regulations for nuclear power plants as they have been strengthened after Fukushima,” Marcos Jr. said on Monday.

“In the area of nuclear power, there have been new technologies developed that allow smaller scale modular nuclear plants and other derivations thereof.”

READ: Marcos pushes for gas, nuclear development alongside renewables 

Environment groups have previously voiced concern over the plan due to the hazardous risks of building nuclear power plants, despite it being a way to help lower electricity costs.

What about the Bataan powerplant?

His father’s venture, the 621-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, was built in 1986 in the hopes of bucking an oil crisis while still meeting the country’s growing energy demands. 

The country’s lone nuclear power plant cost taxpayers P25 million to P35 million to build but it was never commissioned due to safety concerns.

French Ambassador Boccoz said that the abandoned project is now “a thing of the past,” considering the new technologies introduced over three decades since.

“It’s probably too big and it probably needs to much of the grid to be operational.”

“I dont think that’s what the Philippines need for the future so having a sort of more modular systems is probably much more realistic,” she said, adding that smaller nuclear systems would be a better fit considering the country’s geography.

READ: Philippines could revive nuclear plant if Marcos wins presidency

Meanwhile, French companies are also eager to look into the country’s renewable energy industry as it has been identified as one of the areas with investment potential.

Economic Counsellor Olivier Ginepro told Philstar.com that some French renewable energy companies are beginning to test their technologies in some parts of the Philippines.

In the meantime, France said it stands ready to work with the government either through educational trainings or other technical assistance.

“We have had already some discussions to look at what, where we could be useful at this stage,” Ginepro told the press. 

FRANCE

NUCLEAR ENERGY

SONA 2022

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