DOE eyes passage of nuclear legislation this year

Published August 16, 2020, 6:00 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

While site hunting for installations is ongoing, the Department of Energy (DOE) is eyeing the passage of a legislated policy this year to underpin the country’s re-entry into nuclear power development – either with new builds or even the re-powering of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi indicated that the proposed Nuclear Power Law has been certified urgent by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte after the President signed Executive Order 116.

“We’re working on the national policy, we’ll about to have that; and our timeline to finalize it is before the end of this year so that we would be able to make that decision for the inclusion of nuclear in our energy mix. The bill has been filed in Congress and President has certified that it is urgent,” the energy chief stressed.

 On BNPP’s fate, Cusi said this will only be decided once nuclear legislation already made its way with Congress and after the law is signed by the President.

“BNPP might be revived, rehabilitated or not, but that will not stop us from adopting nuclear and that’s why we’re looking for host communities that are willing to adopt nuclear as a source of power,” he pointed out.

Three provinces in the country are on the radar of the DOE as local government-hosts of proposed nuclear power installations – primarily on the deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs), or the prototype that could be viable in powering off-grid areas or island domains.

 Cusi previously told media he already had preliminary discussions with Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez on prospective deployment of SMR in the island-province, albeit the energy chief qualified that final plans will only be firmed up following consultation with the host community.

The other sites explored are those in Sulu in Mindanao; and then Cagayan – chiefly in the dominion of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).

 “In CEZA in Cagayan, they are open. Secretary (Raul) Lambino said he wants to have nuclear at CEZA to support their economic activities,” the energy chief narrated.

In Palawan, Cusi relayed that the governor consented that the proposal of setting up SMR in the area be made public, “but it’s still a process, we have to go through the usual process of public consultation.”

In parallel, the energy chief noted the inter-agency committee (IAC) that will lead in crafting the country’s nuclear energy program shall be formed – as has been prescribed under EO 116 that was recently issued by President Duterte.

 In the planning frame, Cusi asserted “we’re making sure that we comply with all international regulations and the 19 hurdles that we have to finish, this is almost complete with the help of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).”

 Beyond gaining social acceptance for nuclear energy as a technology option, Cusi emphasized that policy and regulatory frameworks and enabling human expertise on nuclear operations shall be among the hurdles yet to be addressed as the country cements its pathway for such installations.