Advocates on the benefits of nuclear energy starts the ball rolling on Earth Day

Alpas Pinas, a non-profit group that advocates for the use of nuclear energy as a clean source of energy, and the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) recently celebrated Earth Day with the theme "Love the Planet, Go for Nuclear Energy, the Green Energy Event."

The ceremony took place at the PNRI Complex, located on Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City.

As part of PNRI-initiated education programs and courses to restore the nation's nuclear capabilities, we were given a tour of the PNRI facilities and given a look inside as it officially opened its doors to stakeholders from the research and academic community.

Alpas Pinas, founded in 2019, is the country's primary group that educates and campaigns for nuclear energy as a means of lowering electricity costs. According to Alpas Pinas, nuclear energy is more than a notion; it is a fact that the country must explore if it is to meet its current energy needs.

According to a paper written for the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development of the Ateneo De Manila-Department of Economics, as of December 2021, the cost of electricity in the Philippines remains among the highest at US$0.16/kWh when compared to other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand (US$0.10/kWh), Indonesia (US$0.10/kWh) and Malaysia (US$0.05/kWh). Only Singapore is higher than the Philippines at US$0.18/kWh.

“If we are truly concerned about the environment, then nuclear energy is the way to go. It is cheap, green and reliable.” said Congressman Mark O. Cojuangco and the country’s foremost advocate for nuclear energy.

Cong. Cojuangco is the author of the controversial House Bill 04631 that mandates the immediate re-commissioning and commercial operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, appropriating funds therefor, and for other purposes.

Furthermore, in his first State of the Nation Address, President Marcos, Jr. emphasized the need to re-evaluate the Philippines' strategy for utilizing nuclear power and adding it to the mix of energy sources required to spur economic development while adhering to the country's climate change commitments.

“In the area of nuclear power, there have been new technologies developed that allow smaller scale modular nuclear plants and other derivations thereof. We will comply, of course, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations for nuclear power plants as they have been strengthened after Fukushima,” he said.As stated by Cong. Cojuangco, the media plays an important role in disseminating accurate information about nuclear energy and its benefits in order to persuade politicians and the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a Nuclear Energy Division inside its organization. The proposed Nuclear Energy Division is envisioned to develop the framework of the nation in utilizing and managing nuclear energy in the country. He added that if the press will not be critical, it will take a longer time to change the nation’s direction in building and transforming the lives of many Filipinos.

“As we bring the celebration of Earth Day to a close, we reiterate our mission in educating the public of the environmental and practical benefits of nuclear energy,” said Gayle Certeza, convenor of Alpas Pinas. “We believe that nuclear energy will positively impact the lives of Filipinos because it will mean lower electricity rates that will better allow for more savings.”

Certeza, a staunch Robredo supporter, mentioned during the briefing that their efforts working with Cong. Cojuangco goes beyond politics.

"We realized that it's not about politics. It's really about making the lives of Filipinos better. It goes beyond politics. We have our differences but after the campaign period, we go back together because this is our advocacy, And whoever has won  should have, had that interests of the Filipino at heart," Certeza emphasized.

Aside from the commercial and practical applications of nuclear energy, harnessing this is also good for business as cheaper electricity spurs manufacturing activity that in turn, creates more jobs stimulating economic activity.

Moreover, nuclear energy will mean a greener planet as this eliminates carbon emissions commonly associated with conventional coal-fired plants.

“You cannot be an eco-warrior if you are not pro-nuclear,” said Cojuangco who has been seeking, since 2009, to revive the 620-megawatt plant in Bataan province, northwest of Manila, to meet an expected rise in power demand. "I am willing to withdraw my proposal if it could be proven that it would be hopeless to rehabilitate and safely operate the plant," Cojuangco told Reuters, adding the country desperately needs additional power.

“It is worth noting that after 34 years, the Philippines has, once more, a working nuclear research reactor. This facility is projected to open the whole scientific field of reactor physics and engineering for Filipinos; on its way for the Philippines to achieving nuclear power sustainability.”  said Dr. Carlo Arcilla, director, PNRI.

The PNRI, an agency under the Department of Science and Technology, is mandated to undertake research and development activities in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Aside from this, it is also tasked with developing nuclear energy as a viable solution to the high cost of power, a greener source of energy and as practical applications in the fields of manufacturing, agriculture, and medicine.