Carlo Arcilla, director of the Philippines Nuclear Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has said the government could simultaneously pursue efforts to rehabilitate and commission the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) while also developing plans to build new small modular reactors (SMRs).

He noted that the inclusion of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix should not be limited to the rehabilitation and commissioning of the BNPP. He told a nuclear energy forum organised by the National Academy of Science and Technology, that development of SMRs was an exciting possibility for the Philippines given that it was an archipelago with many islands off grid.

He pointed out that the BNPP would provide just 620MWe while the Philippines is seeing a need to prepare for a power demand of more than 10,000MWe in a few years. He said the DOST, working closely with the Department of Energy (DOE), could move the agenda forward fast if president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr would order an all-out push for the adoption of nuclear energy in the Philippines.

Arcilla told the Philippines Star that he was giving a workable, “optimistic” timeframe of five years for the full rehabilitation and commissioning of the BNPP. He said the next DOE secretary could negotiate with the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) and its subsidiary Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, for updated feasibility study on the rehabilitation of the BNPP and determine the mode of contract for the project.

The Philippines spent $2.3 billion on a 621MWe Westinghouse pressurised water reactor at Bataan during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos. It was completed in 1984 but was never fuelled or commissioned following allegations of financial irregularities and concerns about safety. It was formally mothballed in 1986 and since 2009 has functioned as a tourist attraction, helping defray the cost of maintaining it.

Image: Philippine's mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant