Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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Government revisits nuclear energy option

The government is checking on the mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) as it considers using the facility to help improve the country’s energy mix, according to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

In a briefing, Cusi said a team would be sent to inspect the BNPP on Thursday “to determine its present status.”

In a forum organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC), Cusi told attendees from more than 30 countries that nuclear power “holds much promise … especially for our nation’s long-term energy plans.”

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The energy chief said the as of end-2015, the Philippines’ source of electricity was 45 percent coal, 25 percent renewable, 23 percent natural gas and 7 percent oil.

Cusi said that with an intensified electrification program, increasing population and strong gross domestic product (GDP) growth, domestic demand for electricity was expected to grow by an average 5 percent a year until 2030.

To meet rising demand, he said the Philippines must weigh all options, with emphasis not just on meeting capacity requirements but also on sustainability and “environmental obligations.”

“Nuclear energy can be a viable choice for the country,” Cusi said. “We are told that on a levelized basis, nuclear power is an economical source—higher productivity and reliability, and low on cost and emissions.”

He said the development of nuclear energy in the Philippines had been stifled for so many decades with “half-truths that are high on political innuendos but lacking in scientific basis.”

Cusi said such “fear of the unknown” had resulted in lost opportunity for the country.

“It has been 40 years and nothing has happened to prove such fears,” he said.

Cusi said that the BNPP—which cost $2.3 billion to build—would need $1 billion to be brought to commercial operation.

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The energy chief said he would revive an interagency core group for nuclear energy—composed of the Department of Energy, Department of Science and Technology and National Power Corp.—that was organized to evaluate the BNPP during the power crisis of the 1990s.

“We will have it fortified to include more stakeholders,” he said.

Cusi noted that the BNPP was supposed to be the first of two nuclear power plants to be built in Bataan, the first in Southeast Asia and the vaunted solution to the oil crisis of the 1970s.

The plant was not allowed to operate in the wake of former President Marcos’ ouster, the controversy related to irregularities in the construction as well as fears of a nuclear fallout.

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