Energy dept seeks to calm nuclear power fears

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2017 09:17 PM | Updated as of Jun 20 2017 05:12 AM

MOSCOW - The Department of Energy on Monday stressed the need to calm the public's fears over nuclear power, as it studied the feasibility of adding it to the country's energy mix.

The department aims to provide President Rodrigo Duterte with a menu of nuclear energy sources, including using the three-decade-old Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos told ABS-CBN News.

"The biggest challenge is social acceptability," said Marcos on the sidelines of a summit hosted by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corp.

"We need to come up with a massive information campaign so that the people will know. They need to be educated on nuclear power," he said.

The $2-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was never used due to worries over its safety. The facility's scheduled opening came at around the same time as the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine, considered among the worst in history.

The 2011 earthquake in Japan, which resulted in a leak in the Fukushima nuclear plant revived such concerns. Like Japan, the Philippines is located along the Pacific "ring of fire," that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Energy officials, however, argued that the US-built plant was rated to withstand impact from a Boeing 747 and its location near Manila Bay was not prone to tsunamis.

"We are taking into consideration the BNPP, if it is feasible to operate it," Marcos said.

The energy department last month signed a memorandum of understanding with ROSATOM on nuclear energy cooperation, including winning public support.

Russian companies have also offered nuclear power barges to the Philippines to help meet growing demand in one of the world's fastest growing economies.