Energy dept reopens its doors to possible use of nuclear power

MANILA — The Duterte government has reopened its doors to the possible use of nuclear power plants to curb the high cost and shortage of power supply, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said Tuesday.

Cusi, who gave the keynote speech during the opening of the International Conference on the Prospects for Nuclear Power in the Asia-Pacific Region at the Diamond Hotel, hinted that if the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) becomes operational, it can produce the much needed 620 megawatts of power.

“To meet this requirement, we have to weigh all our options, with emphasis not just on meeting capacity requirements, but sustainability and environmental obligations as well,” Cusi told attendees.

“We need to have our own Energy Technology Roadmap to guide us in the selection, adoption and innovation of technologies for our use,” he added.

According to Cusi, this will “require us to look at all current and emerging technologies and the many factors needed to make best use of them.”

He said given its known characteristics, nuclear technology can be a viable choice for the country.

He explained that they are told that on a “levelized basis”, nuclear power is an economical source – high on productivity and reliability, and low on costs and emissions.

“It is also said that the nuclear infrastructure and system is more cost-efficient in the long-term,” he stressed.

Reports and special studies also say that the operation of nuclear plants has become safer, more predictable, and more dependable, with useful life of more than 60 years.

“We hope to validate these information and more from our resource persons and guests,” he said.

He further said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) vast knowledge and work on nuclear power, including its own strict safety standards, have contributed towards the present state of the industry.

“Kudos to the IAEA for this! I do not wish to sound as a nuclear energy expert all of a sudden, let alone an endorser of nuclear energy. We have all the veritable experts here under one roof, as we speak,” Cusi said.

“My point is just that, with all the new findings, technological advancements and successful experiences of countries around the world, nuclear energy holds much promise for our national interest, especially in light of our collective quest to implement our long-term energy plans,” he noted.

The BNPP was supposed to be the first of two nuclear plants to be built in the northern province of Bataan.

It was also the first nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia, and the vaunted solution to the 1973 oil crisis that had adversely affected the global economy, including the Philippines.

The project was however mothballed in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Clamor for the reopening of the BNPP was revived during the power crisis in the 1990s and the skyrocketing of oil prices in 2007.

During these periods, the Department of Energy actually came close to reconsidering nuclear power as a potential energy source for the country. Sammy Martin/PNA/