PNRI, citing energy crunch, pushes EO on nuke power

DOST-PNRI Director Carlo A. Arcilla shares the relevance of nuclear S&T in the country and how it could help key sectors in the society.

THE head of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) is appealing to President Duterte to sign the policy statement on the use of nuclear energy in the energy mix of the country.

“I appeal for President Duterte to sign it [proposed executive order adopting a national position on the use of nuclear power],” Director Carlo Arcilla of the PNRI of the Department of Science and Technology told an online news conference.

Arcilla said that the Nuclear Energy Program-Interagency Committee (NEP-IAC) that was created by Duterte in 2020 submitted to the president late last year the proposed national position, which is awaiting the president’s signature.

“I hope he [Duterte] will leave a lasting [policy by signing the executive order],” he said.

Arcilla made the appeal expressing the urgency to have a new energy source, saying the country is facing a power shortage with Malampaya expected to run out of gas source in three years.

In case the issue is not resolved under the Duterte administration that will end in May 2022, it could be an election issue, he added.

Arcilla told the BusinessMirror that if Duterte agrees to develop nuclear power, the quickest facility the country could have is the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which was never used since it was built in the 1980s.

He said South Korea has an active proposal to rehabilitate BNPP for $1 billion to $2 billion. Rehabilitation can be made in four to five years.

The PNRI chief said that if the proposed executive order is not signed, all the steps that were prepared will not push through.

He said scientists from Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have helped the country in assessing the country’s nuclear power capability in the past years.

At the same time, the PNRI has led in giving briefings to government officials from July to December 2020 on the use of nuclear power.

Arcilla added that the renewable energies that are available for the country—solar, wind and geothermal—are important energy sources, but they are not sufficient baseload source.

He said the nuclear power plants that were “sisters” of BNPP, having been made at the time in the 1980s or having the same structure, are still working and providing the needed energy, citing those in South Korea, Brazil and Slovenia.

No problems were encountered in their operations, he added.

At the same time, South Korea, from one nuclear plant in 1980, now has 23 power plants—all aiding Korea’s industry energy requirements and providing its residents “about half of our electric rates.”

Arcilla reiterated the nuclear energy advocates’ position regarding its benefits—such as, it is clean for having no greenhouse emission; is unaffected by weather disturbances; new technologies are safe having lower risks based on lessons learned; and, it enhances industry and energy security, among others.

At the same time, scientists from the National Academy of Science and Technology have supported nuclear power as part of the country’s energy mix.

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