Lawmaker hits DOE’s 'slow' progress on nuclear power

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 25 2023 09:00 PM

MANILA - House Nuclear Energy Chairperson and Pangasinan 2nd District Rep. Mark Cojuangco slammed the Department of Energy’s alleged “slow” progress in including nuclear power in the country’s energy mix.

The lawmaker said he raised the potential of nuclear energy with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. but the chief executive told him to “wait” for the DOE’s conclusions on the matter. Cojuangco added that DOE’s expression of interest is needed for a South Korean firm to pursue a feasibility study on tapping nuclear power in the Philippines.

The DOE previously said that it plans to incorporate nuclear power into the country’s energy mix by 2032, starting with 2,500 megawatts.

"Ako ay nababahala dahil ang ating DOE ay napaka-kupad sa pagsulong ng nuclear power sa Pilipinas,” Cojuangco said.

The lawmaker also claimed that other countries are willing to build and finance nuclear power projects in the country.

"Ang China, Korea willing to build the plants, wala tayong ilalabas na pera. ‘Di ba dapat nagkakandarapa na ang DOE for those opportunities? Russia the same, Japan, Korea the same. Where are we? Where is our DOE?” he asked.

Cojuangco and non-profit organization Alpas Pinas are advocating for nuclear energy, saying it will reduce the cost of electricity in the country, and help encourage investments.

"We have one of the most expensive electricity rates in Southeast Asia. On the average, we spend 10 percent ng kinikita natin just to pay electricity bill. The global average is 3.5 percent to 4 percent... In countries with nuclear energy like France, ang average nila is 1.5 percent,” Alpas Pinas Convenor Gayle Certeza.

Some groups had aired concerns over tapping nuclear power, citing possible challenges in its waste disposal. Cojuangco however said there are solutions available at an affordable cost, and these are included in a bill pending in Congress.

Cojuangco said a substitute measure seeking to create a Philippine Atomic Regulatory Commission is now with the House Committee on Appropriations after hurdling the Nuclear Energy panel. He expects the lower house to pass the bill on third and final reading before the June break.

On Tuesday, the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute showed the media around the Philippine Research Reactor-1, the first nuclear reactor in the country, built in the 1960s, under the Atoms for Peace nuclear research exchange program of the United States. 

PNRI said it is now fully operational to fulfill the growing need for advanced nuclear-related training and research requirements. PRR-1 SATER’s facility manager Ryan Olivares said should the country revive the nuclear power plant, the facility can assist in training its manpower.


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