DOE urged to build foundations for sound nuclear power agenda

DOE urged to build foundations for sound nuclear power agenda

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to focus on meeting the necessary steps in the adoption of a national nuclear energy policy before working on the possible use of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

Gatchalian said any discussion on jumpstarting a nuclear policy in the country has to be comprehensively studied and backed by rigorous research while taking into account the different infrastructure issues and how these will fit into the environmental, social, economic, and regulatory bodies to address pertinent issues including radiation protection and nuclear security and safety.

“Instead of wasting time in reviving the obsolete Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, the DOE should just focus on setting up the necessary legislation, regulations, and public acceptance through greater transparency,” the Senate energy committee chairman said in a press release on Thursday.

Gatchalian said the Philippines has yet to ratify the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, and the Amendment to the Convention of Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

On top of the President Rodrigo Duterte’s directives to conduct a feasibility study on the existing legal framework on the viability of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix through Executive Order No. 116, Gatchalian emphasized the need for the Philippines, as a member-state, to comply with the prescribed guidelines and infrastructure gaps identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He said before embarking on a nuclear energy program, the Philippines needs to address and satisfy at least 19 infrastructure issues of the IAEA through comprehensive pieces of legislation on regulator, radiation protection, safety of nuclear facilities and decommissioning, energy preparedness and response, processing and transport of radioactive material, radioactive waste and spent fuel, nuclear liability, coverage and safeguard measures, export and import controls, nuclear security, physical protection and illicit trafficking, among others.

Gatchalian echoed the earlier assertions made by Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev on the 43-year-old BNPP as “absolutely outdated” and already beyond revival.

He said the current international safety standards are also much higher than the standards on which the BNPP was built. The BNPP is located near Mt. Natib, a volcano and an active earthquake fault.

He added that refurbishing the BNPP to make it operational may entail some USD1 billion, based on estimates. It does not also guarantee a lower price of electricity.

“Hindi totoo na mababa ang presyo. Dahil sa dami ng safety procedures at technology na ilalagay mo, tumataas yung presyo, tulad ng naging karanasan ng Vietnam (It’s not true that price [of electricity] will go down. Due to many safety procedures and technology that have to be placed, the price increases, like the experience of Vietnam),” he pointed out.

He said the BNPP is obsolete already, having been built more than 40 years ago.

“Kaya sa aking pag-aanalisa, mas maganda pang magpatayo ng bagong planta dahil obviously mas marami nang bagong teknolohiya at mga bagong safety procedures na naaangkop sa panahon ngayon (That’s why, based on my own analysis, it is better to build new [nuclear power] plant because obviously there are many new technology and new safety procedures that are appropriate nowadays),” he said. (PNA)

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