Duterte orders Energy dept., agencies to recommend steps on possible use of Bataan power plant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 29) — The Duterte administration is looking into the possible revival of the mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant, according to a new executive order.

The policy is under Executive Order 116 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte that ordered the Department of Energy and other government agencies to suggest “necessary steps” on the possible use of the country's first and only nuclear power facility.

The EO created the DOE-led Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee, which will “review the legal framework, study the viability of nuclear energy, and recommend steps in the utilization of nuclear energy as well as existing facilities such as but not limited to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.”

The administration of then President Corazon Aquino mothballed the facility over corruption and safety concerns, compounded by fears after the Chernobyl nuclear fallout in Russia in 1986.

Duterte noted in the EO signed on July 24 that the committee must take into account in its feasibility study the economic, security, and environmental implications of nuclear energy as a power source, as well as perspectives from stakeholders.

The committee must also evaluate and formulate “a national strategy to include a roadmap and timeline in preparation of a National Energy Program.”

Duterte said funds for the research could be pooled from the Energy department’s budget, adding that if necessary, the Department of Budget Management would identify other sources of funds.

He noted that the the initial report on the study should be submitted to the Office of the President, through the executive secretary, in six months, with the succeeding reports to be handed out every six months thereafter.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi welcomed Duterte’s signing of EO 116, saying the move is a “major step towards the realization of a Philippine nuclear energy program.”

Cusi vowed to work with experts including the International Atomic Energy Agency, which would identify infrastructure gaps. The agency is a United Nation's organization which "promotes safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies."

The DOE chief said in a statement that once the gaps are filled and other necessary requirements are fulfilled, “our people and future generations will reap the economic benefits a nuclear energy program brings.”