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  • Writer's pictureAshizia Dean

Nuclear energy is seen as alternative option to lessen electricity costs in the Philippines

Well before President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 164, which included nuclear energy in the nation's energy supply mix, multiple countries approached the Philippines in finding a method to lessen electricity costs.

According to renowned geologist Carlo Arcilla, director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, at least seven nations have made proposals to assist in the use of nuclear energy to reduce power costs, which are the highest in Asia (PNRI). Arcilla, who is also the former director of the National Institute of Geological Sciences, identified the countries as the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, France and the United Kingdom.

Bataan nuclear power plant in the Philippines.

The most "concrete offer" came from South Korea, which proposed to rehabilitate the decommissioned Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) at their own expense for $1 billion, as per Arcilla. “This will be part of future discussions among concerned government agencies on how do we deal with the offer by South Korea since they will be the one to spend money here,” Arcilla told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

South Korea is the world's sixth largest nuclear energy supplier, with 24.5 gigatons of nuclear energy produced from 23 reactors in 2021.

The United States has 91.5 GW of nuclear power capacity, France has 61.3 GW, China has 50.8 GW, Japan has 31.7 GW, Russia has 29.6 GW, Canada has 13.6 GW, Ukraine has 13.1 GW, the United Kingdom has 8.9 GW, and Spain has 7.1 GW.

Arcilla stated that Russia dispatched scientists to inspect the BNPP, but the government is hesitant to initiate discussions due to sanctions placed on Moscow for its attack on Ukraine.

France and the United Kingdom presented similar arrangements to aid in the rehabilitation of the BNPP, as well as providing assistance to Philippines in its transition to nuclear energy.

Arcilla also revealed that Argentina, which has been developing nuclear energy since the 1960s, has provided assistance in advancing research reactors.

The BNPP, the country's sole venture into nuclear power supply, was established in the early 1970s, and broke ground in 1976 by the American firm Westinghouse Electric. When then-President Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986, the project was nearly finished.

It never was powered following public concerns sparked by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and corruption allegations.

Arcilla, who has worked in nuclear energy research over the years, believes Executive Order No. 164 is significant because it starts up the nuclear alternative choice, even if it does not employ BNPP.

However, he asserted that deciding whether to rehabilitate BNPP or build another nuclear plant will take decades.

He stated that the government has to go through a complex procedures, which would include feasibility studies on location and technology, and even evaluations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Nuclear power as electricity source under Duterte.

“This is the most important thing here,” he said. “Nuclear energy is not just a so-so matter unlike natural gas, coal. In nuclear, we have to include the IAEA here.”

Presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, have stated that if they win the political office in May, they will speed up the transition of nuclear power in the Philippines.

The remark came after President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order authorizing the government to use nuclear power as an alternate feed for energy.

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