The Philippine Star

Se­nate to probe Phl’s nu­clear en­ergy pro­gram

- By PAOLO ROMERO Energy · Industries · United States Senate · Philippines · Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines · Congress of the United States · Russia · Moscow · Soviet Union · Ukraine · Nuclear Power · Sherwin Gatchalian · Philippines Department of Energy · International Atomic Energy Agency · Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant · Chernobyl

The Se­nate com­mit­tee on en­ergy will look into the sta­tus of the coun­try’s nu­clear en­ergy pro­gram as the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion is set to de­cide on a rec­om­men­da­tion to tap nu­clear fuels for sta­ble power sup­ply, Sen. Sher­win Gatchalian said yes­ter­day.

Gatchalian, chair­man of the com­mit­tee, filed a res­o­lu­tion for an in­quiry on the sta­tus of the Depart­ment of En­ergy (DOE)’s Nu­clear En­ergy Pro­gram Im­ple­ment­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NEPIO) in pur­suit of his call for trans­parency in the gov­ern­ment’s nu­clear ini­tia­tives.

“A com­pre­hen­sive, trans­par­ent and pub­lic dis­cus­sion must be made on the mer­its of a na­tional nu­clear pro­gram tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the so­cial, eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and tech­ni­cal ef­fects and re­quire­ments of such a pro­gram,” he said.

He added that the devel­op­ment of a nu­clear power pro­gram in any coun­try re­quires three phases marked by a spe­cific mile­stone and the com­ple­tion of 19 in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments, which ne­ces­si­tate spe­cific ac­tions dur­ing each of these three phases as in­di­cated in the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA)’s mile­stones in the devel­op­ment of a na­tional in­fra­struc­ture for nu­clear power.

The Philip­pines, ac­cord­ing to the sen­a­tor, is cur­rently com­plet­ing phase one, which com­menced when the DOE is­sued Depart­ment Or­der 2016-10-0013 in 2016, cre­at­ing the NEPIO, which is tasked to ex­plore the devel­op­ment and in­clu­sion of nu­clear en­ergy in the coun­try’s elec­tric power sup­ply.

Phase two re­quires prepa­ra­tion for the con­tract­ing and con­struc­tion of a nu­clear power plant af­ter a pol­icy de­ci­sion has been made, and its mile­stone is an in­vi­ta­tion to bid or ne­go­ti­ate a con­tract for the power plant.

Mean­while, phase three de­tails the ac­tiv­i­ties nec­es­sary to im­ple­ment the first nu­clear power plant, and its mile­stone is the com­mis­sion­ing and op­er­a­tion of such ac­tiv­i­ties.

Gatchalian said the NEPIO has trans­mit­ted a com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent, dated April 16, 2018, con­tain­ing the fol­low­ing rec­om­men­da­tions: ap­proval of a Na­tional Po­si­tion to Em­bark on a Nu­clear Power Pro­gram (NPP), is­suance of an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in re­la­tion thereto and fil­ing and/or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as ur­gent ex­ist­ing bills pro­vid­ing for a nu­clear reg­u­la­tory and le­gal frame­work.

He added that IAEA of­fi­cials vis­ited the coun­try in Fe­bru­ary last year for pre­lim­i­nary dis­cus­sions with the DOE and the Depart­ment of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy for the devel­op­ment of nu­clear power as part of the Philip­pines’ power mix.

The IAEA of­fi­cials again vis­ited the Philip­pines last De­cem­ber for the com­ple­tion of an eight-day In­te­grated Nu­clear In­fra­struc­ture Re­view (INIR) as­sess­ing the coun­try’s readi­ness in adopt­ing nu­clear power.

This re­sulted in the cre­ation of an INIR Mis­sion Re­port, which con­tains spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions and sug­ges­tions as well as iden­ti­fied good prac­tices of the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment in the in­tro­duc­tion of nu­clear power in the coun­try.

Gatchalian, how­ever, pointed out that the DOE has not made these pro­pos­als and as­sess­ments and the IAEA’s INIR Mis­sion Re­port avail­able to the pub­lic, or even to Congress.

He had ear­lier called on the DOE to be more trans­par­ent in its nu­clear pro­gram agenda amid re­ports that the Philip­pines and Rus­sia signed a deal on ex­plor­ing the pos­si­ble con­struc­tion of a nu­clear power plant.

The sen­a­tor made the call dur­ing the hear­ing on the DOE’s pro­posed 2020 bud­get.

He pushed for the scru­tiny of the nu­clear en­ergy pro­gram af­ter a mem­o­ran­dum of in­tent was signed by Philip­pine and Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing Pres­i­dent Duterte’s visit to Moscow last week “to jointly ex­plore the prospects of co­op­er­a­tion in the con­struc­tion of nu­clear power plants in the Philip­pines.”

A pro­posal to build a float­ing nu­clear power plant in the coun­try was also for­warded by Rus­sia.

One of world's worst nu­clear dis­as­ters oc­curred in 1986 at the Ch­er­nobyl Nu­clear Power Plant, which was blamed on a flawed So­viet re­ac­tor in Ukraine, at the time part of the So­viet Union.

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