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Duterte issues EO tapping nuclear power as energy source

President Rodrigo Duterte has issued an executive order (EO) tapping nuclear power as an energy source along with other alternative energy resources, saying this is needed to achieve the country's growth targets.

Duterte, in issuing EO 164, said such a move is a by-product of the EO 116 issued in 2020 that directs the conduct of relevant studies for the adoption of a National Position for a Nuclear Energy Program, and constituted the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) to oversee its preparation.

"The national government commits to the introduction of nuclear power energy into the state's energy mix for power generation. The state will ensure the peaceful use of nuclear technology anchored on critical tenets of public safety, national security, energy self­-sufficiency, and environmental sustainability," the EO, dated February 28 but only released on March 3, states.

The EO also states that the national "government will assess, review and develop nuclear energy plans using integrated approaches that consider both the provision of energy supplies, and the role of energy efficiency in meeting increasing demand for energy."

According to the government, projected demand for a clean energy pathway in the country is expected to grow at 4.4% a year, requiring almost 68 gigawatts (GW) of additional capacity by 2040.

"Considering this demand and the depletion of natural gas resources, nuclear power will play an important role to the required capacity to achieve energy security, especially to meet the needs of an emerging upper middle income country," the EO states.

Embarking on a Nuclear Energy Program, the EO says, will minimize possible trade-offs between emissions and the environment.

"Life cycle emissions from nuclear power chains are comparable with the best renewable energy chains and several orders of magnitude lower than fossil fuel chains," it states.

"Nuclear power can contribute effectively to the mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and has strong potential to decarbonize the power sector."

The EO further states that the government is committed to pursue the highest standards of nuclear safety, security and safeguards, including provision for civil liability, to fulfill its obligations under international treaties, and other international conventions and agreements.

The EO also mandates the NEP-IAC to collate all audits and recommendations, conduct further studies and assessments and if necessary, and make recommendations on the use and viability of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and the establishment of other facilities for the utilization of nuclear energy.

The Philippines last ventured into a nuclear program in 1976 when then-President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

The BNPP project, which cost as much as $2.3 billion, however, was shelved after three years due to safety concerns. —KBK, GMA News