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DOE: 10 years needed for a nuclear plant to be operational in the Philippines


The Philippines will have to wait 10 years to see a working nuclear power plant, a top official of the Department of Energy (DOE) said Tuesday.

“If we do it the regular way. You have to have siting, you have feasibility studies, then you have to develop the siting to make sure it’s durable enough to ensure the safety of our people. I think 10 years,” Energy Undersecretary Sharon Garin said in a chance interview with reporters in Makati City.

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, was shelved after three years due to safety concerns.

“That’s a long term [initiative], but we are prepared for it,” Garin said.

In March, then-President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 164, which allowed the adoption of nuclear energy into the country’s power mix.

The DOE also proposed to the House of Representatives a measure creating the Commission on Nuclear Energy.

Apart from feasibility studies and site developments, Garin said acceptability surveys have to be taken, and security measures have to be in place before a nuclear power plant can be built and operational.

“Eventually, we need to prepare. If something happens, who will be liable. Who will decommission? Because, the decommissioning if you have seen in Japan and Ukraine, it took them 10 years to decommission nuclear power plants,” the Energy official said.

“Those things we have to have in place so that, even whatever technology, even if it's modular or conventional, we're ready,” she added.

Garin said the Philippines was looking to tap small modular reactor technology.

“We have modular sites... In some places in Mindanao, Palawan. But, I cannot be specific with the LGU (local government unit). But the basic fundamental is what is safest as to geography, the fault lines," she explained.

"There are some areas that are not connected to the grid that can also be potential for small and modular as this will give them a more stable base load.”

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

As to whether or not the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant would be revived, Garin said, “What possibly we can do is do a third party assessment.”

“Also our bureaus like PNRI (Philippine Nuclear Research Institute) [or] the DOE can do the study also,” she said.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed desire to adopt nuclear energy as part of the country’s power mix, but said that the government needed to rethink its strategy on nuclear power.

“The Bataan Nuclear Plant, we need to make sure if we want it opened, we have to make sure it’s safe. There has been some studies already, assessments but these are done by different companies and also possible suppliers,” the DOE official said.

“We are not saying that Bataan is the only way to go. But we need to be very careful, we need to make sure the people are, they feel safe hence we need the regulatory and legislative legal framework… One concern is the city as well as the LGU, the province is willing to be the site of a nuclear power plant,” she said.

Garin said the DOE hopes to use its 2023 budget to move forward with a third party assessment of the BNPP.

“Once we know if it is safe or not. If it is safe we can start deciding who will operate,” she said.

However, the DOE official said the Congress would still have to decide under what type of arrangement would nuclear power plants operate.

“EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) does not allow the government to generate. If we do a new law - which we are, it’s already in Congress - the Congress has to decide if this will be an exception to EPIRA or do we assign an agency or GOCC to develop nuclear power in the country. Or we make it like the conventional powers that we have that we leave it to the private sector, or we can do PPP (public-private partnership), or BOT (build-operate-transfer),” Garin said.

“It depends on the Congress. We will await the decision of the Congress eventually when they take it up,” she said. — DVM, GMA Integrated News

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