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PNRI cites importance of nuclear waste disposal facility

SOCHI, Russia — If the Philippine government decides to go into nuclear power development, disposing radioactive wastes must be addressed before radioactive material accumulates, by putting up a licensed disposal facility together with the construction of a nuclear power plant, the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) said here.

”If we have a nuclear power program in the Philippines, I will recommend to the President that if you license the plant, also start licensing the beginnings of waste disposal at the same time,” PNRI Director Carlo Arcilla told reporters on the sidelines of the 10th International Forum ATOMEXPO 2018 in this city.

Addressing nuclear waste disposal is the most important issue that needs to be addressed before a nuclear power program can gain public acceptance, Arcilla noted.

“It’s important that before we accumulate waste, the plan for waste disposal is already set,” he said.

A geoscientist and geotechnical engineering expert, Arcilla recommended to isolate an island for deep geological repository for nuclear wastes.

“Putting up deep bore holes in an island can be done as we have the expertise to do that,” he said.

Concerns about polluting the land and the ocean can be addressed by creating thick bentonite clay walls around the repository, Arcilla noted.

Bentonite clay is widely used by nuclear power producers as barriers that isolate nuclear waste storage.

Arcilla said bentonite has crystal structures that can absorb radioactive wastes, which acts as a “prison.”

“So the radioactive wastes will not escape,” he said.

The PNRI chief underscored the need for the Philippines to add nuclear power to its energy mix and ensure security as the keep up with the demands of a growing economy.

Arcilla said it is high time to consider nuclear power development as the Malampaya natural gas facility is expected to be depleted soon and coal and renewables may not be enough to address a looming shortfall in electricity supply.

He said the generation cost of nuclear power is one-tenth that of coal.

“One pellet of uranium is equivalent to one-and-a-half tons of coal. So for the whole 18 months that you power a nuclear power plant, the fuel needed would only fit a pickup truck ... Equivalent coal will be five ships of 50,000 tons” Arcilla noted.

The ATOMEXPO International Forum is an annual exhibition organized by Russia’s State Nuclear Energy Corp. (Rosatom) since 2009, which provides nuclear power companies to share knowledge and experience in nuclear power development and raise public awareness about the benefits of nuclear energy.

The 10th ATOMEXPO is held in Sochi, Russia on May 14 to 16 with the theme “Global Partnership-Joint Success.” —VDS, GMA News


This story is produced as part of an invitation for the Philippine media to the ATOMEXPO International Forum sponsored by ROSATOM.