Cusi: Time is ripe to begin public talks on merits of nuclear power generation


Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said Thursday “time is ripe” for the conduct of public discussions to include nuclear power in the Philippines’s energy mix to meet growing electricity demand.

“I personally feel that the time is ripe for intensified and informed public discussions on nuclear energy, as well as its potential role in our energy security agenda. Today, in fact, the Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country/ that has an active nuclear power program.

“Despite growing opposition, the push for nuclear energy’s inclusion in the energy mix will help ensure the country’s energy security and address possible future power emergencies,” said Cusi during the 5th Global Conference on Energy Efficiency.

Cusi was among the five global keynote speakers who talked about Recommendation No. 7 of the Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency, “Engaging at All Levels of Society to Accelerate Efficiency Progress.”

The agency’s approach in the energy mix is technology neutral, which imposes no cap in the type of technology.

“I have been asked many times why we adopted this ‘technology neutral’ policy. We have to be real: we are lack of capacity and there is an urgent need for the Philippines to build its power capacity fast. And to attain energy security, we must make sure that we have abundant sources at this stage.

“This technology neutral approach leads me to one of the most controversial and politicized topics in the Philippine energy sector—the utilization of nuclear power for energy security and efficiency,” he said.

The Philippines was one of the first Southeast Asian countries to embark on a nuclear power program with the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in 1958.

Two decades later after the commission’s establishment, the country became host to Southeast Asia’s only nuclear power plant in the 1980s—the 621-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). Its construction started in 1976, with total investment amounting to $2.3 billion, by the time it was completed in 1984. Unfortunately, the plant’s operation never saw the light.

“I strongly believe, and I have said this already several times in the past: It is high time for the Philippines to be open to the idea. Nuclear power is a reliable alternative to attain energy sufficiency and meet future power demands.

All those arguments that have been said against the nuclear power plant had been answered by time. In hindsight, the Philippine economy would have been different had we tapped nuclear power in the 1980s,” added Cusi.

In 2018, Cusi submitted a proposed national policy on nuclear energy to President Duterte for approval. The proposed national position not only covers the use of the mothballed Bataan BNPP but also the development of modular nuclear power plants across the country.

A survey was also conducted back then. Results of the survey were not made public but Cusi said he was “pleased” with the results, “as it showed that the respondents are aware that nuclear energy possesses, both benefits and risks.”

“The public’s perception on nuclear energy is also changing as reflected in the nationwide survey that we commissioned last year. I am still hopeful that the Philippines will be able to use nuclear energy in the future.”

The DOE, through its Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization, has been working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess the feasibility of safely and responsibly harnessing nuclear energy in the Philippines.

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