Russia's floating nuclear power plants eyed for island provinces in PH

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The Philippines is in talks to use floating plants that will supply nuclear power to remote provinces, a Cabinet official says.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 8) — Russia's floating power plants using nuclear energy could be deployed to island provinces and isolated areas in the Philippines as a more efficient source of electricity, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Tuesday.

Central to the business deals signed by Presidents Rodrigo Duterte and Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting in Moscow last week is a promise to "jointly explore the prospects of cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants." Lopez said the deal is "exploratory" so far, with local authorities assessing whether these floating power stations would be doable in the Philippines.

"'Yung mga floating nuclear power plants, very useful daw sa mga island provinces and cities. Very efficient and very safe with the technology now, ine-ensure nila ang safety ng ganitong power sources," Lopez told CNN Philippines' The Source, adding it could serve as the alternative to coal-fired plants.

The Cabinet official dismissed fears that the move could be against the law.

READ: After PH inks nuclear energy deal with Russia, Duterte says it may be unconstitutional

"Chineck naman po natin at hindi naman po unconstitutional. Pero syempre, lahat ng involved sa diskusyong 'yan will have to assure 'yung safety [We checked and it's not unconstitutional. But of course, everyone involved in that discussion will have to assure safety]," Lopez added.

Russia launched its first-ever floating nuclear power reactor in August aboard the huge Akademik Lomonosov ship with three tug vessels that set sail across the Arctic Sea, CNN reported. The nuclear rig is eyed to bring electric power to Russia's most remote regions. Unlike power plants fixed on land, Lopez said the floating facility could be safer as it could be driven away from earthquake-prone areas or those struck by a natural disaster.

The Philippines has a nuclear energy facility in Bataan which has never been tapped for electricity amid questions of corruption and safety. In November 2017, the Department of Energy inked a memorandum of understanding with Russia's Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, which the Foreign Affairs Department said covers cooperation on the various uses of nuclear power.

Russian ambassador: Bataan nuclear power plant revival 'not possible at all'

While the technology might sound far-fetched, Lopez said this was worth considering as nuclear plants are said to be more efficient. He clarified that the deal could take long to prosper, but said that Filipinos "have to open our minds" when presented with such an option.

Environmentalists dubbed Russia's floating nuclear platform as "Chernobyl on Ice," a nod to the 1986 explosion considered as the worst nuclear disaster in history which exposed residents to damaging radiation.

Chicken for tuna

Meanwhile, the biggest chunk of the trade agreements forged by the Philippines and Russia involved the export of canned sardines and tuna, as well as coconut milk. In turn, Moscow wants to sell more of its chicken products, vehicles, watches, and medical devices in Manila.

While the business deals are cumulatively worth ₱650 million — lower when compared to what Duterte's delegation brought home in previous foreign visits — Lopez said the amount will keep growing.

"The good thing that happened is as we open up all these networking business-to-business consultations, nanganganak pa ito at dumadami pa [it's spreading and multiplying]," Lopez added.

The DTI chief said that they also want to promote supply deals for auto parts and aerospace craft to Russians, but are limited as to the capacity of local manufacturers to supply in big quantities.

Other goods which can be marketed abroad must first ensure large production capacity to meet demand, Lopez said.