Philippines Takes ‘Major Step’ Toward Use of Nuclear Power

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AFP/TED ALJIBE

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order last Friday creating a new inter-agency committee to study ways the country may adopt the use of nuclear power, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Nuclear Energy Program Interagency Committee will “examine the feasibility of nuclear energy as an energy source and draft regulations toward its ultimate adoption,” the Philippine Star reported.

“The 11-member committee will be co-chaired by the energy and science and technology departments, with the finance, foreign affairs, environment agencies as well as the National Economic and Development Authority acting as some of the members. The EO [executive order] requires the committee to submit an initial report to Duterte within six months or by January 2021,” the newspaper noted.

“There is an imperative study need[ed] to revisit the country’s policy on nuclear energy and to determine its feasibility as a long term option for power generation,” according to the text of Duterte’s executive order.

According to the report, the formation of the new committee revives the Duterte administration’s dormant plans to explore nuclear power as a viable energy alternative for the Philippines.

In 2017, the Philippines’ energy department “submitted a ‘national position’ on nuclear energy to Duterte for his approval,” the Philippine Star recalled. “This was followed by the signing of a memorandum of understanding with China and Russia to assist the Philippines in studying nuclear energy in 2018.”

Despite these developments, Duterte’s administration took no concrete action to tap nuclear energy in the Philippines until now.

Duterte’s signing of the executive order represents “a major step towards the realization of a Philippine nuclear energy program” that will “help shield our consumers from traditional power price volatilities,” Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said of the move.

Cusi’s energy department views nuclear power “as a potential answer to the Philippines’ twin problems of precarious supply and Southeast Asia’s highest electricity costs,” Reuters noted.

According to the news agency, the Philippines “spent $2.3 billion to build what was Southeast Asia’s only nuclear power facility but never used it. The 621-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was completed in 1984 but mothballed following the devastating Chernobyl disaster and the collapse of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, who ordered its construction.”

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