The Senate Energy Committee is set to begin an inquiry into the Department of Energy’s plan to advance the nuclear power agenda. In photo is the reactor of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. — BW FILE PHOTO

THE Senate Energy Committee is set to begin an inquiry into the Department of Energy’s (DoE) plan to advance the nuclear power agenda in the Philippines.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, under Senate Resolution No 162, asked the DoE to update the chamber on the status of developments and its recommendations for exploring nuclear power.

Wala pa rin akong nakukuhang update (I have not received an update). That’s why I was telling the Department of Energy… nuclear power is a very controversial source of energy dahil ang risk napakataas (because the risks are very high),” Mr. Gatchalian said in a briefing Wednesday.

“There are more questions than answers; that’s why we will conduct now a hearing to put this on the table at gawing official kung ano ang direction (and make official the direction) when it comes to nuclear power,” he said, noting the hearing may be conducted “in two weeks.”

The Senator was speaking on the sidelines of the Energy Committee’s initial deliberations on the proposed Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute Act, which he said is necessary if the government goes ahead with its nuclear agenda.

The DoE recently received the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s nineteen-point Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review, which evaluated areas in which the government needs to improve if it were to venture into nuclear power.

Mr. Gatchalian disclosed having conducted his own research, and cited the UK’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant as a case of nuclear power possibly raising electricity costs.

“Over the last few months, gumagawa ako ng research at natuklasan ko na ‘yung pinakabagong planta na pinapatayo sa England, ang tawag dun ay Hinkley Point, ang benta nya (Our research has turned up the case of the Hinkley Point plant under construction in the UK, which sells power) in terms of generation charge for (the equivalent of) P5.55,” he said, noting coal costs about P4-4.50.

The resolution also cited President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s visit to Russia in October, during which the Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi signed a memorandum of intent with state-owned company Rosatom to explore the construction of nuclear power plants.

“We’ve been hearing talk of reviving the nuclear power agenda in our country and very few people can claim to be experts in nuclear power,” Mr. Gatchalian said during the hearing on the proposal to create an independent energy institute.

“The Department of Energy (DoE) has been pushing for this but the basic question is — is nuclear energy fit for the Philippines? Is it fit for our country? Will it deliver the promises of lower electricity cost at very minimal risk?”

The measure was supported by the University of the Philippines, which is to lead the institute’s establishment, but was opposed by the DoE due to budgetary constraints.

“We are more of the idea to strengthen the staff of the Department of Energy, rather than creating another energy institute because of the budgetary constraints and the functions described in the bill, the DoE is already doing,” Assistant Director Melita V. Obillo of the Energy Policy and Planning Bureau told the panel. — Charmaine A. Tadalan