Cusi heading for US to sign nuke deals


Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi is set to travel to the United States to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the US government to explore the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) in island provinces for the planned nuclear power installations in the country. 

In an economic briefing with US officials on Friday night, Manila time, Cusi said that he believes that SMRs are viable in the country given their “size and relative transportability, ability to provide non-intermittent power supply, low carbon footprint, and predictable supply cost which could be helpful in developing the island provinces.”

He added that SMRs will save the government on logistics and costing and at the same time improve the reliability of energy supply in island provinces. 

SMRs, as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency, are “advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300MW, which is about one-third of traditional nuclear power reactors.”

Cusi’s trip to the US is part of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) push to incorporate nuclear power into the country’s energy mix, which it hopes to do by 2035. However, based on the department’s energy planning re-adjustment, SMRs may be put up as early as 2027 or 2028.

In the meantime, the DOE is currently waiting for Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of the national position for nuclear power that the agency drafted together with the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

Cusi has actively advocated for the inclusion of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix, arguing at one point that it would help reduce oil imports. With the pandemic revealing the vulnerability of the country’s energy sources, Cusi said that it became more urgent for the government to integrate nuclear into the energy mix as it would be very beneficial for the country. 

Earlier, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian expressed his support for the use of SMRs, which he described as a “safer and smaller nuclear technology.” Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, particularly favors the use of SMRs over the reopening of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

“‘Yung mga ganitong SMRs, ‘yung mga maliliit – 30MW, 100MW – mas pabor ako diyan. At yung mga bagong technology na pwedeng i-recycle ‘yung waste, mas pabor ako diyan,” Gatchalian said in the January episode of Power Podcast.

Gatchalian mentioned that some SMRs have the technology capable of recycling nuclear waste – but these are not yet commercially available.

Photo from the Virtual Economic Briefing