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By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

Duterte backs plan to revive nuclear power plant

Posted on November 12, 2016

BATANGAS CITY -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte is now backing plans to revive the mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) after initially rejecting the use of nuclear energy in the country, according to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi.

“[President Duterte] has spoken and after he has spoken I talked to him and made clarification and [sought] clearance that I proceed to work for its [BNPP’s] implementation and full operation,” Mr. Cusi said in a speech during the inauguration of two natural gas-fired power plants on Friday in Batangas City.

Mr. Duterte had earlier said nuclear energy would not be an option for the country during his term.

Proponents of nuclear power previously asked what prompted Mr. Duterte to come up with a firm stand on the matter even after the DoE had publicly endorsed the crafting of a nuclear energy policy.

However, the president is known to change his views on issues. For instance, Mr. Duterte earlier this week said the Philippines will ratify the Paris Agreement, after earlier criticizing the commitment made by the Aquino administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Cusi said he assured the President that there will be safeguards in place to ensure the nuclear power plant will be operated properly.

“But we will see because he [Mr. Duterte] gave me very specific instructions on security and safety,” he said.

The DoE chief said he sent a team on Thursday to visit and look into the nuclear power plant, which began construction in the 1970s. It was completed in the early 1980s but has never been operated.

“Personally and under the DoE (Department of Energy), I’d like the BNPP to really operate,” Mr. Cusi said.

The Energy chief had previously said the plant would cost $1 billion to be repowered. The National Power Corp. placed the plant’s capacity at around 600 megawatts. The DoE-attached agency oversees the upkeep of the plant over the years.

On the sidelines of the event, Mr. Cusi told reporters that for now, BNPP’s revival plans would be a state undertaking, although government staff currently do not have the competence to operate the mothballed facility.

A state-to-state partnership would be an option, Mr. Cusi added.

The Philippines had a nuclear program when Ferdinand E. Marcos was president in the ‘70s. The Bataan plant began construction in 1976, but was stopped after the Three Mile Island accident in the US in 1979. A safety inquiry later disclosed a string of anomalies, including its location which is said to be near a geological fault line.

An attempt to study a nuclear plan was cut short during the term of Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident happened in Japan on March 11, 2011.