By Myrna M. Velasco
SINGAPORE – With Thailand and Vietnam backpedaling on their nuclear power ambitions, the Philippines is still getting headway to be the first in the Southeast Asian region to have an operating nuclear power facility.
“I would love the Philippines to be the first one in Southeast Asia. And it starts with the one reactor it has to get on-line into operation,” Agneta Rising, director-general of the World Nuclear Association has indicated.
She further noted “that would be so great because the Philippines once had dedication more than 30 years ago and it had everybody trained and there were people who already knew how to operate it.”
She said the mothballed 620-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) of the Philippines had already been cleared by international agencies like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as technically feasible for repowering – and that has even been backed by various studies of nuclear-expert countries – all stipulating that the facility can still be rehabilitated.
“It (BNPP) has been cleared by international organizations and it’s sort of fit to operate. Of course, there are things to do – but these will all be part of the learnings of a country getting into nuclear. You can have the large reactors and you can have one which you can start – and that would be very beneficial because the Philippines already invested in it,” she stressed.
The only missing link for the Philippines re-entry into nuclear power development paradigm, at this point, would be a clear policy direction and firm commitment from government leaders.
“The Philippines will need a clear commitment and agreement that we are going to do this – and there’s no problem to get people trained and even to access financing because there are international organizations that can help on that,” Rising said.
Once the government lays down a decision on a nuclear pathway, Rising emphasized that international organizations like the IAEA as well as the vendors of the reactors could help in rebuilding the human capability of the Filipinos into operating a nuclear plant.
“There is a very good support from the IAEA, who is supporting newcomer countries and helping with what you need such as infrastructure building and capacity building – some training. The vendors also have training programs, so all of these you can get access to,” the executive of the global nuclear association stressed.
The interim arrangement, she said, will be for these international entities to initially help the country – while its younger generation would be educated and technically trained on the facet of nuclear power operations.
On the more contentious concern of public acceptance for nuclear as an option in the Philippine energy mix, Rising noted that opposition will only arise if government planning would not be transparent, “if there are things that are being kept as secret from the public – so it is vital that every detail shall be explained to the people.”
Nuclear, she said, is not just thriving as a cheaper cost option for consumers on a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) basis, but it also has massive job generation potential compared to other energy technologies.
“In Europe, they compared the number of jobs per installed capacity of energy — and it’s 3 times more jobs in nuclear than in wind; and if you compare with hydro, it’s 15 times more than hydro, – so you can have very good high-skilled jobs that the young people would want to have,” she asserted.
On Wednesday (October 30), the IAEA had turned over to the Department of Energy (DOE) its integrated nuclear infrastructure review that could be the Philippines guide on the planned revival of the country’s nuclear power ambition.