Ph, US sign nuke exploration deal

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The Philippines has formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Strategic Civil Nuclear Cooperation (NCMOU) with the United States to explore the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) in island provinces. 

Energy Usec. Gerardo Erguiza Jr. signed the NCMOU for the Philippines, while US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins signed on behalf of the American government.

“Deepening our cooperation in nuclear energy, science and technology has the potential to make a significant contribution to our shared clean energy goals, agricultural development, availability of clean water, medical treatments, and more,” the US State Department said in a statement.

Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, who was supposed to sign the agreement, had said that SMRs are viable in the country given their “size and relative transportability, ability to provide non-intermittent power supply, low carbon footprint, and predictability of supply cost which could be helpful in developing the island provinces.” 

Senate energy committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian also prefers SMRs over the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

The NCMOU is part of DOE’s goals to incorporate nuclear energy into the country’s energy mix. 

Prior to the signing, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte approved the Philippines’ national position for a nuclear energy program, officially adding nuclear power in the country’s energy mix through the Philippine Energy Plan. 

Clean energy advocacy group Power for People (P4P), however, opposed the nuclear energy-related developments.

“Nuclear energy is a risky business whose benefits are minute compared to risks. We also wonder why the Philippine government is so keen to expose a climate-vulnerable and disaster-prone country like ours to similar dangerous possibilities. Does the Philippines have to be the next Fukushima when we have far safer renewable energy sources we can tap instead?” P4P convenor Gerry Arances said in a statement. 

Arances was referring to the damages sustained by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant following the powerful Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011.

The group added that the country would need to import fuel for nuclear plants from other countries, which would only put consumers “at the mercy of global market prices vulnerable to shocks.” 

P4P has also called on the next administration to focus on other energy sources that are “readily available” and would assure energy supply for the country.