‘Social acceptance a big challenge to nuclear energy’


BAGAC, BATAAN: Social acceptance is the biggest hurdle in coming up with a national position on the nuclear power program, according to an Energy official.

Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos said a wide public acceptance regarding the use of nuclear energy would make it easier for the executive and legislative departments to make a decision regarding the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

A national position is one of the 19 requirements prescribed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power.

Pre-feasibility study

A pre-feasibility study on rehabilitating the BNPP is also vital to crafting a national position on the 620-megawatt (MW) facility in this province, Marcos said.

He told reporters on Wednesday that six countries were interested in conducting due diligence on the nuclear power facility, including China, Korea, Japan, France, and the United States.

The Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization (Nepio) is currently working on a national leadership for the objective recommendation on BNPP by December.

Even before the Nepio was established last October, Marcos said they had been gathering data and holding public consultations to get a feel for the public pulse on the BNPP.

Nuclear experts from Russia and Slovenia, together with the DoE, National Power Corp. (NPC), Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), and Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. started early this week a two-month pre-feasibility study on the BNPP.

Six working groups were formed to undertake the due diligence, which would conduct visual inspection, review the documentation and programs, and assess the condition of the equipment.

Their goal is to administer a pre-feasibility study on the likelihood of reviving the BNPP nuclear in the municipality of Morong. The two-month assessment is provided for free by Rosatom on the heels of an agreement Russia and the Philippines signed in Moscow last May during the state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte

The results of the assessment will be released in November.

The BNPP was never used but the government has been setting aside P50 million a year to maintain the facility.

New agencies proposed

During a press briefing, Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) Director Carlo Arcilla said the institute must evolve into a regulatory body and a research body—or two totally different entities.

Arcilla said current composition of the DOST-PNRI as think tank and regulator was not an ideal situation.
He also noted a comprehensive nuclear regulatory program must be in place should the Philippines decide to embark on nuclear energy.

It would be difficult to have nuclear power in a country without an independent regulator. This is an urgent matter that must be resolved, Arcilla said.

In a related development, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is proposing for the inception of an energy research organization to bridge the gap between study and policy on promoting greater energy security, equity, and sustainability in the Philippines.

Under Senate Bill No. 1574 filed last Wednesday, the Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute (PERPI), inspired by similar energy research institutes at leading American universities, will be commissioned to administer multidisciplinary energy study, incubate and develop cutting edge technologies, and serve as the Philippine government’s partner during the policy-making process.

“As a publicly-funded institute, PERPI will be charged with ensuring its research output is used to craft energy sector reforms for the benefit the national economy and the lives of the Filipino people,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee, is seeking a P200 million budget for the PERPI’s initial budget. An Endowment Fund will also be set up to advance its research undertakings.


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