The Palawan local government has joined a short list of areas that are “open to hosting” a nuclear power plant, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said, even as the Philippines is practically still approaching square one toward the use of the socially sensitive technology.
Cusi said in a briefing that Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez expressed such interest, although this was “subject to public consultation.”
“Before this, we have received expressions of interest from [local authorities in] Sulu and [officials at the] Cagayan Economic Zone Authority,” the energy chief said.
Cusi provided this update as he lauded the recent signing of Executive Order No. 116, which directs the creation of an inter-agency committee to study the viability of nuclear energy and recommend the needed steps in the use of such technology “as well as existing facilities such as but not limited to” the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
He said the government was firm on including nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix— the portfolio of resources from which electricity is produced.
“The Philippines’ use of nuclear energy is not dependent on the possible use of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant,” he said. “The three areas [Palawan, Sulu and Cagayan] are looking into small modular nuclear reactors.”
With the operation last December of the world’s first small modular nuclear reactor whose Russian developers said could be applied in countries like the Philippines, the International Energy Agency has started looking at hybrid nuclear-renewable energy systems to help rein in climate change.
The Austria-based United Nations agency said nuclear energy could back up renewable energy systems, “ensuring round-the-clock clean power even when there’s no sunshine or wind.”
Last January, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) said that if this new smaller technology proved to be successful, then nuclear power could be more affordable and even more flexible, to be integrated with renewables in so-called hybrid energy systems.
There are at least two dozen countries worldwide that are considering adding nuclear to their power generation mix, several of which—aside from Russia —are developing small reactors.
Over the past three years, the Philippine Department of Energy has been actively pursuing the nuclear option, having asked an IAEA-led mission to evaluate the country’s prospects.
The Philippines is merely “ready,” based on the IAEA assessment, “to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear power program.”
The IAEA also said the Philippines has a lot more to achieve to move forward such as developing a legal and regulatory framework that ensures and demonstrates a commitment to safety, security and non-proliferation.
Further, The IAEA recommended for the Philippines to adapt existing national frameworks for emergency preparedness and response and for nuclear security. Between these milestones and the actual construction of a nuclear power plant is a long way to go.