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Fitch Solutions: No nuclear power online in Philippines over next decade

It is unlikely the Philippines will have a nuclear power plant go online in the next ten years due to uncertainties over including it in the country’s energy mix, think-tank Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research said Thursday.

In its report, Fitch Solutions said, “We maintain our forecasts that no nuclear capacity will come online in the country over the coming decade given that there are still significant uncertainties surrounding this such as high capital costs, safety considerations and long lead times...but we may seek to revise it if there is more concrete project development in the sector going forward.”

This came after Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi proposed during a recent Cabinet meeting the issuance of an executive order for the inclusion of nuclear power in the Philippines’s energy mix. 

Fitch Solutions, however, noted that there are no details as to when a decision will be made on nuclear power yet.

“We stress that foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment from the US, Japan, Russia, France and South Korea have already expressed interest in recent years and are keen to invest in the Philippines' nuclear power sector,” the think-tank said.

Last year, the Philippines and Russia agreed to explore the possible construction of nuclear power plants in the country.

But environmentalists, including Greenpeace, urged the government not to pursue nuclear power, citing safety concerns.

“We note that there has already been some traction on developing Philippines’ nuclear sector in recent months, given ongoing government considerations to restart the country’s Bataan Nuclear Plant and reintroduce nuclear energy in the country,” Fitch Solutions said.

In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte was the first to consider the feasibility of restarting operations at the Bataan plant, largely for energy security, which led to a series of feasibility studies and efforts on this front, the think-tank said.

In October 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delivered the final report for their end-2018 review to assess the Philippines’ nuclear power infrastructure development, specifically at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. 

“It was presented with an optimistic outcome, and made several further recommendations and suggestions to aid the government in progressing their nuclear agenda,” Fitch Solutions said.

If nuclear energy is successfully introduced in the Philippines’s energy mix, the think-tank said that nuclear power will be an effective way to meet this demand, given its high capacity factor as a baseload resource, and particularly as coal-fired power—which the Philippines has largely turned to—comes under increasing environmental opposition.

“We stress that the Philippines is set to see a power demand surge over the coming years driven by strong macroeconomic and demographic growth, along with government goals to achieve a 100% electrification rate by 2022 under the Total Electrification Programme (TEP),” it said. — BM, GMA News