‘Pinoys warm up to nuclear energy’

    The BNPP is seen during a tour around the BNPP compound in Morong. (Reuters photo)
    The BNPP is seen during a tour around the BNPP compound in Morong. (Reuters photo)

    The Philippines will prepare a detailed plan for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on how it could embark on a nuclear power program, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said yesterday, backing a push for the country to tap nuclear energy.

    This comes at a time when results of a survey commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE) and conducted by the Social Weather Station last May showed more Filipinos are now open to the use power from nuclear energy.

    Filipinos, however, are not willing to host such power plants in their neighborhood.

    Cusi made these statements in his speech at the handover of the Official Phase 1 mission report of the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission in Taguig City yesterday.

    “The report of the survey says 79 percent of Filipinos favor nuclear as energy source but the problem is they don’t want the project to be located in their backyards. Likewise, 72 percent of respondents also believe on whatever the decision of the president will be on the matter. The biggest endorser on this venture will be the President,” Cusi said.

    Results of the survey were presented to President Duterte at a Cabinet meeting October 5.
    Cusi did not specify the scope of the survey but the earlier figure cited was between 4,250 and 4,600 respondents.

    “We are set to meet with the IAEA next month to discuss further collaboration efforts,” Cusi said.

    “This is the beginning of a new phase of work because we have to prepare now our plan of action and we are going to present it to them, to IAEA, and they are going to audit us,” Cusi said.

    The DOE has been studying the use of nuclear power, a divisive issue in the Philippines due to safety concerns.

    It has drafted an executive order, which is awaiting Duterte’s signature, outlining a national policy to support its plan.

    Duterte has said safety will be his top consideration in deciding whether the country will pursue nuclear energy.

    Cusi said Duterte “wants to learn more” about nuclear energy.

    Nuclear power is seen as a potential answer to the Philippines’ twin problems of precarious supply and the high cost of electricity, although Cusi said other options were also being considered.

    “We are looking at all sources of energy. We’re studying hydrogen,” he said. “We are hungry for power and we will tap any sources that would satisfy our own needs now.”
    Supporters of Cusi’s nuclear energy push say that because the fuel cost is lower, electricity rates will drop. But those against it cite a reliance on imported uranium, high waste disposal and decommissioning costs, as well as safety issues.

    If it decides to tap nuclear energy, the Philippines could either build new facilities or rehabilitate its Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, built in the 1980s but mothballed after a change in the country’s leadership and the devastating Chernobyl disaster.

    Cusi said the government is also looking at deploying small modular nuclear plants to some of the country’s islands still suffering from power shortage.

    The government recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Russian state atomic company Rosatom involving a pre-feasibility study for such plants, he said. – (with Reuters)