The Philippines needs to finalize legal framework for the development of nuclear technology as a national power source, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said.
“A strong national framework on nuclear power must be compliant with international standards on safety, security, safeguards, and liability,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy.
The senator said the country has yet to approve three key international nuclear conventions, namely the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, and the amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
The country’s only existing nuclear energy body, the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), focuses on radiation and nuclear research and development.
“All of the gaps in our nuclear energy legal framework would first need to be addressed by passing comprehensive legislation,” Gatchalian said.
The senator said the country can learn from more advanced countries on the development of nuclear power.
“There is a wide range of issues that we need to explore and thresh out before we can accurately measure the true potential of nuclear technology as an alternative energy source in the Philippines,” he said.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently studying the possibility of adding nuclear power to the country’s energy mix.
Should the Philippines pursue this, a comprehensive legal framework on the use and management of nuclear power would first need to be crafted to tackle issues, Gatchalian said.
These issues include the structure and powers of the regulatory body; licensing, inspection, and enforcement; radiation protection; sources of radiation and radioactive material; safety of nuclear facilities; emergency preparedness and response; transport of radioactive material; radioactive waste and spent fuel; nuclear liability and coverage; non-proliferation and physical protection; export and import controls; and physical protection.
Last month, DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the agency has already submitted a proposed national policy on nuclear energy to President Duterte for approval.
He said the proposed national policy covers the use of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and the development of modular nuclear power plants across the country.
Earlier this year, a technical cooperation between the DOE and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that the use of nuclear power can be a viable long-term energy option for the Philippines.
The report, Cusi had said, would be part of the agency’s recommendations which would be submitted to the President.
Part of the DOE’s recommendations on the country’s national position included the results of the energy planning studies implemented under IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Projects, namely: PHI 2011 Assessing the Development of a Nuclear Power Program in the Philippines for 2016-2017 and PHI 2016 003 Development of Nuclear Infrastructure in the Philippines, Phase II for 2018-2019.
The report also touched on the possible cooperation in other areas, such as human resource development, nuclear safety, legal and regulatory framework, international standards, cooperation with international community, stakeholders involvement, and challenges which includes the closure on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) issue.