THE Department of Energy (DoE) estimates a timeline of 10 years before nuclear power can join the energy mix.

“If you want to (tap) nuclear, small and modular (reactors are) more feasible. The technology exists in the US. In order for us to procure we need to comply with the international bilateral agreements,” Energy Undersecretary Sharon S. Garin said on Tuesday. 

Ms. Garin added: “If we do it the regular way (with) site (and) feasibility studies, I think (it will take) 10 years — 10 years to operational status,” Ms. Garin said.

On Monday, US Vice-President Kamala Harris said that the US and the Philippines will launch negotiations on a nuclear energy program for civilian use.

Ms. Garin said that in order for the Philippines to procure small modular reactors it needs to comply with various international agreements.

“One of that is the 123 Agreement. (Ms. Harris announced that the US is) willing to start negotiations,” Ms. Garin said.

Ms. Garin called the negotiations a good start in accessing US technology.

The 123 Agreement helps ensure that civilian nuclear energy programs are not diverted to weapons development and proliferation. 

This agreement also establishes a legal framework for significant nuclear cooperation with other countries.

Ms. Garin said the Energy department is open to any technology to ensure energy security.

“We are open to any technology when it comes to renewable energy or green energy or transition to any kind of energy other than coal or petroleum. Nuclear can be a technology (that can be developed into a) better technology in 10 years,” she said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has laid down 19 milestones for countries seeking to develop a nuclear power program.

The Philippines is currently in the first stage — the establishment of a national nuclear policy.

In 2020, former President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed an executive order setting the national position on the development of nuclear energy.

Ms. Garin also said that the DoE is also looking to commission a third-party assessment on reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.  

“We are not saying that Bataan is the only way to go, but we need to be very careful, we need to make sure the people… feel safe,” Ms. Garin said.

Ms. Garin added that the DoE tap its 2023 budget to finance the third-party assessment.

“Hopefully we can use the 2023 budget for that so we can proceed. Once we know that it is safe or not. If it is safe, we can start deciding who will operate,” Ms. Garin said. — Ashley Erika O. Jose