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DoE nuclear policy expected to uphold ‘technology-neutral’ stance

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PHILSTAR

AN office at the Energy department is set to submit this week the “national position” on nuclear energy, which generally supports previous pronouncements from the agency that it is technology-neutral when it comes to power generation.

“The nuclear energy program should continue,” said Energy Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos in an interview when asked about what the country’s stand will be.

Mr. Marcos is the designated chairman of the Department of Energy’s (DoE) Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Office (Nepio), which was set up specifically to come up with the country’s policy on nuclear energy.

He said the policy will be submitted this week to DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi who will then come up with his recommendation to the President. He expects the recommendation to be ready by the next two to three weeks.

“It’s an objective recommendation,” Mr. Marcos said, but declining to disclose more about the proposed national position.

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Separately, Mr. Cusi told reporters the country’s policy is “for nuclear, but not necessarily BNPP (Bataan Nuclear Power Plant),” referring to the mothballed project that started under the Marcos administration but discontinued by subsequent leaders over security and safety concerns.

“We are looking at a floating nuclear or a maritime nuclear,” Mr. Cusi said.

He said his recent trip to Russia involved looking at Russia’s capability in building a floating nuclear facility, which he said should be ready by 2018 or early 2019.

“Russia is already doing that, which we can bring in the country at around 60 megawatts,” he said.

He said the floating facility is targeted for deployment in island provinces.

“But I have to find a closure to this BNPP,” Mr. Cusi said, citing possible uses for the aging plant including as data center or as a tourist attraction.

He said the biggest hurdle to implementing a nuclear policy for the country remains “social acceptability.”

“Under the EPIRA law (Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001), it’s the private sector (that needs to take the lead). We’re just paving the way to make it happen,” Mr. Cusi said.

Mr. Marcos has said the national position is a product of consultations with experts, including those from Russia and Slovenia who made a preliminary assessment of the possibility and viability of rehabilitating the Bataan nuclear power plant.

Together with the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute and the National Power Corp., Mr. Marcos had brought representatives from Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. and Slovenia’s Gen Enerjia to the “nuclear village” in Bagac, Bataan. Australia’s WorleyParsons Ltd. also joined the inspection of the facility.

He has said that the activity will define the scope of work for the pre-feasibilty study of the possible rehabilitation of the nuclear plant.

The DoE said the feasibility study to be conducted by Rosatom is free of charge as part of cooperation between the Philippines and Russia. — Victor V. Saulon

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