Nuclear energy is back on the Philippine government’s list of possible alternatives for power generation in the future, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), as it faces stiff opposition from environmentalists and various militant groups.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla stressed that even before he was appointed to his current position, he was already looking at nuclear energy as a possible power source option.
“We’re looking at it on a long-term basis. We’re counting on [nuclear as an option]. At the same time, we have to look at the technical side, and then recommend later on if studies show that it’s good for the country,” Petilla said.
“In the end however, we always have to [consider] social acceptability. One thing I can guarantee, nuclear power will have a level playing field, but we just need to take into account social acceptability,” he added.
Petilla said that it is this social dimension—or the possible non-acceptance of nuclear energy by the public—that is currently limiting the government from including it in its energy mix.
“Nuclear is not in the energy mix today. The major advantage of nuclear power generation is that it’s cheap—you’re talking generation of 2.50 pesos to 3 pesos per kilowatt-hour, compared to today’s generation of 5 pesos a kWh and up. Another advantage of nuclear is that it’s clean, meaning no emissions,” he further explained.
The energy reform agenda, which was formulated during the term of Petilla’s predecessor, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras, stated that the DOE planned to implement a national nuclear power programme, and even set 2025 as the target year for the start of operations of the proposed 2,000-megawatt nuclear facility.
The target will clearly be pushed back to a later date as the Philippines has not even started with the programme and is awaiting for advances in technology, particularly those that deal with safety.
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 of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)—the agency tasked to look for the technology and fuel type that would best suit the BNPP—a conversion to coal would be 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.
Amy R. Remo
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