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Philippines not closing door on nuke power

MANILA, Philippines—Nuclear Energy remains a possible alternative for power generation in the future, according to the Department of Energy, despite the stiff opposition lodged by numerous environmentalists and concerned groups over the past years.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras stressed in a recent interview that the country should be prepared to embark on a nuclear power generation plan in the future, when the time comes that all the necessary safeguards would be established and put in place.

“It’s just for future generations, that’s why I do not want to scrap it from the energy plan. I want to keep it as an option in the future when the safety standards improve and when technology will be able to catch up and develop much safer facilities,” Almendras told the Inquirer.

Almendras’ remarks were in reaction to one of the proposals brought up to improve the Philippine power sector, as cited in the Arangkada Philippines, a publication sponsored by the Joint Foreign Chambers. The publication put together evaluations and recommendations that will lead to the creation of $75 billion in new foreign investment, 10 million jobs and P1 trillion in revenue for the Philippine economy within this decade.

One of the recommendations in the advocacy paper was to “include nuclear power development in the national power development plan” and for Congress to pass a “resolution supporting the consideration of the development of nuclear energy.”

“The nuclear option is still there,” Almendras stressed.

According to the present administration’s energy reform agenda, the Department of Energy planned to implement a national nuclear power program and was even targeting to facilitate the operation of a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant by 2025.

The target will clearly be pushed back to a later date as the Philippines has not even started to establish such a program and is awaiting technology advances in terms of ensuring safety.

According to the Arangkada Philippines paper, the development of nuclear power projects globally has been set back by at least a decade following the catastrophic failures at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011.

Last year, the Philippine government was studying the possible conversion of the mothballed 630-megawatt Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) into either a coal-fired or natural gas-fed facility.

Based on the initial findings being conducted by the Department of Science and Technology, the agency now tasked to look for the best technology that can be used to convert the BNPP to run on another fuel type, a conversion to coal was more feasible.

The BNPP was built during the Marcos era by Westinghouse Electric at a cost of $2.2 billion. It was mothballed in 1986 due to safety concerns, even before it could begin operations. The structure is now dilapidated and outdated.

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