By MYRNA M. VELASCO
Against the backdrop of a threatening power crisis, the Department of Energy (DOE) is intensifying its pitch for nuclear power development as it opines that this is a way forward for the country’s long-term energy security.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said “the time is ripe for intensified and informed public discussions on nuclear energy and its potential role in our energy security agenda.”
The energy chief is aware that eyebrows are being raised on his proclivity for nuclear power, but he stressed that his forthright response to critics will be “why not?”
Opening up debates and public discourse on nuclear power development, Cusi said, is well anchored on a “favorable turnout” of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that the department has commissioned last year.
Relative to the recommended repowering of the mothballed 600-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), Cusi noted that 79 percent of respondents had given affirmative vote to it; while proposals to build new nuclear energy facilities had been bestowed an approval rating of 65 percent.
Cusi said such survey results “are positive indicators on the acceptability of nuclear energy,” with him adding that “respondents are aware that nuclear energy possesses both benefits and risks.”
The energy secretary added that about 70 percent of respondents also voted favorably on the allocation of government funds for the construction of a nuclear power plant.
Cusi qualified though that definitive development framework as well as regulations are still a work-in-progress when it comes to the country’s nuclear power ambitions – and these are among the key topics that must be fleshed out in public debates relating to this technology option.
“Considering the potential of safely utilizing nuclear energy for our power needs doesn’t mean that nuclear power plants will immediately come out of the woodwork,” Cusi averred.
He emphasized that “the entire process will take time, especially since we are still at the stage of addressing the 19 infrastructure issues needed in developing a national nuclear power program.”
Cusi’s nuclear power inclination started when he took office at the DOE in 2016; and three years after, it is still the technology that he prefers to be integrated in the country’s power mix.