Philippines studies deploying small nuclear plants to island-provinces

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 17 2019 08:03 PM | Updated as of Oct 17 2019 08:25 PM

Floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov is towed from the Arctic port of Murmansk, northwestern Russia. Could a similar device be used in the Philippines? AFP file photo from Rosatom

MANILA—The government is studying if small modular nuclear reactors can be deployed in small island provinces, the head of the Department of Energy said on Thursday. 

Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the Philippines inked an agreement with Russian nuclear energy agency Rosatom to study the feasibility of using such power plants that can produce between 20 to 200 megawatts in far-flung areas. 

"If this is successful, it will improve the quality of electricity in the island provinces," Cusi said in an interview with ABS-CBN News. 

The memorandum of intent with Rosatom was one of the agreements inked during President Duterte's second visit to Russia, Cusi said. 

He clarified that the deal was only for Rosatom to conduct a pre-feasibility study. 

Before any nuclear plant can be deployed, the government must first satisfy several strict standards laid down by the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Cusi, meanwhile, said experts are also studying the feasibility of using the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. 

The Bataan plant was built during the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos, but was never used amid concerns over safety. 

Cusi also discounted such worries.

" 'Pag nakausap natin 'yung mga talagang eksperto sa (If we talk to real experts on) nuclear, they will say that that technology is the safest among all," Cusi said. 

The Energy official declined to say when the government could decide on the fate of the BNPP.

Russia launched the world's first floating nuclear reactor named Akademik Lomonosov in August, sending it on a 5,000-kilometer journey across the Arctic and into Siberia.

Rosatom said the floating reactor was a simpler alternative to building a conventional plant on ground that is frozen all year round, and it intends to sell such reactors abroad.

Meanwhile, environment groups called the floating reactor a potential "Chernobyl on ice" and a "nuclear Titanic."

Last week, Senators questioned the proposed P97-million budget of the DOE for nuclear power research.

—Report from Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News