THE Asia-Pacific region can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and meet clean energy objectives by turning to nuclear power, a 3-day conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Manila has concluded.
The conference on the Prospects of Nuclear Power in the Asia Pacific Region noted that the region makes one of the fastest economic growth in the world. Hence, it follows that the demand for affordable and sustainable energy sources is expected to rise.
“The region may benefit from advances in small modular reactors due to the specific geographic nature of the region. In particular, the lAEA underlined the potential of the application of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Southeast Asia given the territorial small island nature, the technology’s potential in enhancing energy supply security, current efforts to transition to low carbon economies, and the development of an integrated regional energy market,” said Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson, the over-all chair of the 3-day conference. Collinson is the Philippine Ambassador to Austria as well as the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna.
A high nuclear scenario in the Asia Pacific takes into account more potential newcomer states such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, in addition to Vietnam.
The conferences also discussed key challenges to the development of a high nuclear scenario in the region including public acceptance and safety concerns, nuclear waste issues, large upfront investment, and uncertainty in government support.
Collinson said that going for a nuclear power program (NPP) is ultimately a sovereign decision; however, international organizations are ready to assist states in evaluating their options and weighing the considerations in undertaking such a decision.
“The introduction of nuclear power begins with a consideration of the infrastructure and government commitment necessary to undertake the development of the program. Developing a legal and regulatory framework – and the associated competencies – requires a considerable amount of effort,” Collinson said.
“Two countries from our region – China and India – will cause roughly half of future emissions. Nuclear power could be the largest individual contributor to emissions reductions in the electricity sector. However, the current market design was not suited for capital-intensive technologies such as nuclear power, leaving room for improvement and new market arrangements,” she said.
“The prospects for nuclear power in the Asia Pacific region are not only promising; moreover, it is relevant and will continue to remain so in the coming years.
This conference will certainly be the first of many international gatherings, as nuclear energy will certainly dominate discussions in the future. As we strengthen our people-to-people networks,” she added.
Meanwhile, in a chance interview with Collinson after the event said that, “As a Filipino, I think the impetus that this conference had given to our formulation a nuclear energy policy is the most important take away. The the involvement by [Energy] Secretary Cusi, NGO, and public because many still really don’t understand what is nuclear energy, is it dangerous? why there were Fukushima, Chernobyl?, but the truth of the matter is there are about 450 nuclear power reactors in the world today, all operating safely”.
While regarding the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), Collinson, said the commitment is that we will look at it and see if it can be operational.
“The important thing is to consult with the people and make them aware, education process, awareness of the benefits, awareness of the challenges, including the high cost of initial cost, we are talking about $1 billion, however, the lifespan of a nuclear power plant is about anywhere from 60 to 80 years extendable by another 20 so basically 100 years,” she said.
“I think the cost will be assessed by those who want to operate it and of course we have all the technical expertise here. We have the IEEA, we have the private companies. In fact, I think, there had been two….I know the Korean group and the IEEA mission group,” she added.