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Adoption of nuclear power need not be BNPP; Russia's small reactor tech possible option –Energy chief

The Philippines’ possible foray into nuclear power generation does not have to be the revival of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), as the government looks into other viable options in tapping nuclear energy, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said Wednesday.

“To make the Philippines’ energy more secured and competitive, we want to include nuclear [power] in our energy mix,” Cusi told GMA News Online.

“It doesn’t have to be the BNPP.”

Last March, the Cabinet official presented to President Rodrigo Duterte and members of the Cabinet a proposal to include nuclear power in the country’s energy mix as the Philippines is expected to have a rapid growth in electricity demand, in which a 24/7 power is essential.

The possibility of reviving the almost-four-decades-idle BNPP was not discussed, according to the Palace.

“We are studying all possible option including Rosatom’s small modular reactor,” Cusi said.

In October 2019, Russian State Nuclear Energy Corp. (Rosatom) Overseas JSC and the Department of Energy (DOE) signed a memorandum of intent on cooperation to conduct a pre-feasibility study on construction in the Philippines of nuclear power plants based on small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

“As stated in the document we will jointly conduct a feasibility study on the construction of SMR nuclear power plants in the Philippines. We have thus laid the ground for our future cooperation in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy and moving forward,” Rosatom director for Southeast Asia Egor Simonov told GMA News Online in an email interview.

Rosatom has earlier said that the BNPP can be revived but it may not be cost-effective. 

“We looked into reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in 2017-2018 and concluded that the project would require substantial investment,” Simonov said.

“As it stands, we believe that building new nuclear capacities is a more economically feasible solution... This is because new safety regulations have been put in place and the outdated equipment would need to be phased out. But again, the final decision rests with the Philippine government,” the Rosatom official said.

Simonov confirmed that the Philippines has expressed its interest in developing SMRs together with Rosatom.

“We believe that together with our Philippine partners we can quickly progress in this direction,” he said.

“As for SMRs, we see them as one of the most promising, safe and economically feasible solutions to provide clean energy that perfectly suits the Philippines’ geography as an island state. An offshore SMR NPP (nuclear power plant) is a mobile solution that does not require large-scale grid infrastructure – something that is quite expensive and complicated for an island state. Once implemented, SMRs can ensure the Philippines’ energy independence,” he added. --KBK, GMA News