Over a year after the submission of its draft, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed the national position for a nuclear energy program through Executive Order (EO) No. 164 on Monday, though the new policy was only released to the media on Thursday.
Under the Nuclear Energy Program (NEP), nuclear power will now be included in the country’s energy mix through the Philippine Energy Plan.
“Nuclear power shall be tapped as a viable alternative baseload power source along with alternative energy sources, to address the projected decline of coal-fired power plants which come under increasing environmental opposition,” the EO stated.
Energy Usec. Gerardo Erguiza said that with the nuclear energy program, traditional nuclear power plants could come in as early as 2027.
“We have limited sources of fuel so we have to diversify,” Erguiza said in a press conference on Thursday.
Under the EO, the NEP-Inter Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) must come up with a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework to support the program. This includes the establishment of an independent regulatory body for nuclear energy, as well as proposing amendments on existing laws, rules and regulations. Ratifications of pending related treaties and conventions should also be pursued.
The NEP-IAC is chaired by the Department of Energy (DOE), while the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) serves as vice-chair. The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), a DOST-attached agency, is among NEP-IAC’s nine-member entities.
The regulations and infrastructures that will fall under the NEP should be guided by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 19 Infrastructure Issues, which include nuclear safety, funding and financing, legal frameworks, electrical grid, emergency planning, radioactive management, and environmental protection, among others.
Amid concerns over radioactive waste, the NEP positioned nuclear power as beneficial to the environment.
“Nuclear technology could help minimize the possible trade-offs between emissions and the environment. Life cycle emissions from nuclear power chains are comparable with the best renewable energy chains and several orders of magnitude lower than fossil fuel chains. Nuclear power can contribute effectively to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and has strong potential to decarbonize the power sector,” the EO read.
The DOE has already identified 15 areas that could be possible locations of new nuclear power plants, specifically in Batangas, Cagayan, General Santos City, Negros Occidental, Puerto Princesa City, Quezon, and Sulu. However, these locations are still subject to the site selection process.
Duterte has also ordered the NEP-IAC to look into the possible reopening of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
“Guided by the tenets of sound energy planning, the NEP-IAC shall collate all audits and recommendations, and conduct further studies and assessments, if necessary, and make recommendations on the use and viability of the BNPP and the establishment of other facilities for the utilization of nuclear energy,” the EO read.
Erguiza pointed out that the NEP opens the door for the next administration to tap nuclear power as a resource for to fill the country’s energy needs.
“This is a policy for the future. It is up to the future generations of leaders and people to decide [to] put up a power plant,” Erguiza said.
Presidential candidates Vice Pres. Leni Robredo, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, and former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. have said their respective positions on nuclear power, including the possible reopening of the BNPP.