AFTER nearly 40 years, the government is now seriously considering the possibility of allowing the construction of nuclear power plants in the country.
“The Department of Energy [DOE] is studying all sources of energy to address the energy security of the future. We’re pushing nuclear and last year finished the draft on national policy on nuclear energy,” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said on Monday at the sidelines of the Kapihan media forum at the Manila Hotel.
“We are pushing to have nuclear energy in the country because we want industry to flourish and one of the considerations the manufacturers are looking at is the cost of energy and labor.” He conceded that the Philippines has one of the highest costs of energy in Asia—ranked 16th-most expensive of 44 countries surveyed in a 2016 study by Meralco—but assured the public the Duterte administration is seriously thinking of ways to bring down the cost of electricity.
“Aside from affordability, we are also looking at the quality of energy,” Cusi added, explaining that frequent fluctuations lead to the breakdown of machinery and equipment that rely on electricity, a matter that has discouraged investors.
Cusi observed that the only reliable and affordable source of power is nuclear, and the policy option is “not necessarily to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant [BNPP],” but consider other places in the archipelago.
In 1976, then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos ordered the building of a $2.3-billion nuclear power plant in Morong, Bataan, as the then-dictator’s bid to diversify the Philippines’s energy source. The plant was completed in 1984, but failed to produce a single watt of electricity due to strong public opposition.
Critics pointed out that the BNPP sits on an earthquake-prone fault, and said the loan-funded plant was overpriced.
It was mothballed after Marcos was ousted in 1986 and in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
“There’s too many negatives implanted in our mind—especially the BNPP, which we were told is substandard, sitting on an earthquake fault and would collapse—and other reasons [were given] simply to stop it from operating,” Cusi said.
He added that after 40 years, “all of our fears have been addressed. We realized that what we were told is not true, but [already] too many opportunities have been lost.”
Cusi said the apprehensions about the security of nuclear power plants have already been raised in the past, and, he stressed, it is time for the Philippines to learn from its neighbors.
“The Duterte administration is forwarding the idea to use nuclear power. Nuclear technology has advanced so much we should ride along with this new technology,” the energy chief said.