By Sheldeen Joy Talavera, Reporter

DEVELOPING nuclear energy in the Philippines could be too late due to the climate crisis, an analyst said, suggesting a focus on building renewable energy capacities instead.

“If we’re waiting for 10 years for something to all come together and miraculously work together and agree on that, it’s too late,” Paolo Pagaduan, renewable energy lead at Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, said on the sidelines of a forum last week.

“Why wait if we can do it with solar and wind?,” he said.

In a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations (UN) in 2018, it said there is a need to limit global warming from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, which means cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030.

During the 2019 UN meeting about climate and sustainable development, it was said that there were just 11 years left to prevent the “irreversible damage” caused by climate change.

“I was hoping that the plan would be a bit faster because if there’s one thing that’s not being highlighted now is that the reason why we have to do all of these — why we have to shift to renewables [and] why they have to consider nuclear energy — is because of the climate crisis in the first place,” Mr. Pagaduan said.

With a current share of 22%, the government aims to increase the proportion of renewables in the country’s power mix to 35% by 2040 and 50% by 2050.

Under the proposed new energy roadmap, the government aims to introduce nuclear energy, with a targeted capacity of 1,200 megawatts (MW) by 2032, Energy Undersecretary Sharon S. Garin said during the forum.

“It is not an easy task to start a nuclear energy program. That is why it is slow because we have to make sure that everything is safe, secure, has safeguards and compliant with all the international requirements,” she said.

“Because nobody will sell any technology or teach you about any technology if you do not comply with all these requirements of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency),” she added.

The Department of Energy (DoE) is aiming to work with the Phase 2 which is the preparatory work for the contracting and construction of a nuclear power plant after a policy decision has been taken.

Ms. Garin said that the DoE is ramping up the nuclear energy roadmap which is eyed to be published within the month.

“We will still follow these phases, but we believe, and we are confident that we can be faster because we are ready. We have been preparing for Phase 2 in the last two years and even the years before that,” she said.

Froilan J. Savet, first vice-president and head of network at Manila Electric Co., said that nuclear energy will not replace renewables but rather complement it.

“You’ll need a baseload plant with a high-capacity factor and high-energy density. Imagine, a one gram of uranium is equivalent to many tons of coal and 1,800 liters of oil,” Mr. Savet said.

Carlo A. Arcilla, director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, said that “the fastest way to go nuclear” is to rehabilitate the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

The 620-MW BNPP will require a jeepney-sized fuel which could last for 18 months, he said, with an estimated cost of $30 million.

“If that were a coal plant running for 18 months, 620 megawatts… [it will require] $800 million,” Mr. Arcilla said.