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Gov’t departments vetting proposed nuclear policy

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Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP)
PHILSTAR

THE Energy department said other government agencies are now vetting the atomic energy policy it proposed to Malacañang, the outgoing head of the Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization (NEPIO) said.

“As far as I know, the Office of the President has been asking,” Department of Energy (DoE) Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos said in a recent interview when asked about an update on the recommendation.

“The other agencies are reviewing,” he added, citing the Department of Science and Technology, and the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) as among the key evaluators.

NEPIO, a panel created under the DoE, was chaired by Mr. Marcos before he relinquished his position. He did not disclose the reason for his departure, but he said he already has enough of a workload at the department.

He declined to confirm whether DoE Assistant Secretary Gerardo D. Erguiza, Jr., the NEPIO vice-chairman, would take over as head of the organization. Mr. Erguiza led the DoE team, assisted by PNRI, in a meeting in Austria around mid-November with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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Mr. Marcos said before his departure, NEPIO had made strides in advancing the country’s adherence to IAEA requirements.

“We have this INIR (Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review) program. We attended IAEA for the integrated work program,” he said.

The INIR mission, which was conducted by IAEA, assists its member states in evaluating the status of 19 infrastructure requirements to determine the possibility of introducing a safe, secure, and sustainable national nuclear program.

In October 2016, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi called for the creation of NEPIO to comply with IAEA’s policy guidelines. The organization led “unified and coordinated” efforts and activities in holding studies and research on the feasibility of nuclear energy development.

On Dec. 10, 2018, the mission’s first phase was held in Manila, during which the DoE presented its self-evaluation report outlining the progress made in meeting the 19 requirements, which serve as a guide for countries considering the adoption of nuclear power.

The mission’s phase one report, which is the first of three, contains IAEA’s initial findings on the country’s existing good practices and the improvements it had undertaken.

It also covers the agency’s recommendations and suggestions for NEPIO’s preparation of an integrated work plan, which will answer IAEA concerns should the government decide to pursue the use of nuclear power as a potential source of energy for the country.

However, Mr. Marcos said a crucial piece of infrastructure remains missing.

“One of the very first ‘infrastructure requirements’ is the national position (on nuclear energy),” he said. “We’re waiting for the national position, which is now (with) the Office of the President.”

He said the DoE while waiting for that policy would continue to work on the other “parallel” requirements as the department maintains its stance to be technology-neutral by tapping other available energy sources. — Victor V. Saulon

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