Philippines sets up committee to consider nuclear power

31 July 2020

Philippines Energy Ministry said on 29 July that President Rodrigo Duterte had created an inter-agency panel to study the adoption of a national nuclear energy policy. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has long advocated the use of nuclear power, despite public concerns over safety. 

Cusi welcomed Duterte’s move as “a major step towards the realisation of a Philippine nuclear energy programme” that would “help shield our consumers from traditional power price volatilities”.

The committee will assess the feasibility of adding nuclear to the Philippines’ power mix, taking into account economic, security and environmental implications.

If it goes ahead, it could either build new facilities or rehabilitate the Bataan NPP which has been mothballed. The Philippines spent $2.3 billion on the 621MWe Westinghouse pressurised water reactor at Bataan which was completed in 1984 but mothballed due to issues regarding corruption and safety, compounded by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The President said the nuclear energy programme inter-agency committee (NEP-IAC) will be headed by the Department of Energy, with the Department of Science of Technology as its co-chair. The committee members are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Finance, and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The National Economic Development Authority, National Power Corporation, National Transmission Corporation, Philippine Nuclear Research Institute and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology are also committee members. NEP-IAC will be mandated to “conduct a pre-feasibility study to evaluate and assess the need for and viability of introducing nuclear power into the State’s energy mix, taking into consideration economic, security and environmental implications, and engagement of the public and relevant stakeholders.”

It will also formulate a national strategy to include a roadmap and timeline in the preparation of a national energy program.

It will “review the existing legal framework,” and “recommend the necessary steps in the utilisation of nuclear energy as well as existing facilities such as but not limited to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.”

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