Congress needs to fast-track the passage of an enabling legislation for the country to develop nuclear technology as an “alternative energy” source, Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian said on Thursday, citing the lack of legal framework to add nuclear power in the energy mix. Currently, the Department of Energy (DOE) is studying the possibility of adding nuclear power to the country’s energy mix.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, however, noted there is “a wide range of issues we need to explore and thresh out before we can accurately measure the true potential of nuclear technology” as an alternative energy source in the Philippines.
Should the Philippines decide to pursue adding nuclear power to the energy mix, the senator suggested that a comprehensive legal framework on the use of nuclear power would first need to be crafted to tackle issues, such as: (a) the structure and powers of the regulatory body; (b) licensing, inspection and enforcement; (c) radiation protection; (d) sources of radiation and radioactive material; (e) safety of nuclear facilities; (f) emergency preparedness and response; (g) transport of radioactive material; (h) radioactive waste and spent fuel; (i) nuclear liability and coverage; (j) non-proliferation and physical protection; (k) export and import controls; and (l) physical protection.
In a news statement, Gatchalian acknowledged that the Philippines still “has a lot to learn from more advanced countries with respect to the development of nuclear technology as a national power resource.”
He noted that, at present, the country’s only existing nuclear energy body is the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) under the Department of Science and Technology, whose functions center around radiation and nuclear research and development.
“All of the gaps in our nuclear energy legal framework would first need to be addressed by passing comprehensive legislation,” Gatchalian said.
The Philippines, he added, has yet to ratify three key international nuclear conventions, namely the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, and the amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
Moreover, the lawmaker said a strong national framework on nuclear power “must be compliant with international standards on safety, security, safeguards and liability.”
Gatchalian participated in a study tour earlier this month to learn about the current nuclear technologies of certain European countries. He was part of the delegation led by Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III and joined by DOE Undersecretary Donato Marcos, chairman of the Philippines Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization, and Dr. Carlo Arcilla, director of the PNRI.
Among the sites the delegation visited were the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Office of Legal Affairs and the IAEA Seidersdorf Laborary—both in the Vienna, Austria—and the Slovenia Nuclear Safety Administration and the Krsko Nuclear Power Plant, which are both found in Slovenia.