Nuclear energy study to be sent to Duterte by December – DOE

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — An inter-agency body created by President Rodrigo Duterte expects to submit to him results of a study on the possible inclusion of nuclear power into the country’s energy mix.

In an online media briefing on Saturday, Energy Undersecretary William Felix Fuentebella said the government is looking into tapping alternative fuels and technologies to diversify energy sources. He mentioned nuclear energy, hydrogen, and ocean technology, although noting that more study needs to be done.

Iyong nuclear naman ay kailangang matapos na 'yung national position study na isusumite kay Pangulo under his executive order by December," Fuentebella said.

[Translation: As for nuclear, the national position study should be completed and submitted to the President by December, under his executive order.]

Duterte issued Executive Order No. 116 in July, creating a Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee to evaluate and assess the adoption of a national position on the use nuclear power. The committee, led by the Department of Energy, was tasked to come up with a report on the foray into nuclear energy – the need for and viability of such, and its impact on the economy, security, and environment.

Duterte ordered an initial report to be sent to him within six months or until January, with subsequent reports every six months.

The committee should also recommend the necessary steps to utilize nuclear energy, including but not limited to the possible revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. This is the country's first and only nuclear power station which never became operational due to issues of corruption and safety, compounded by fear following the Chernobyl disaster in Russia in 1986.

Duterte said Bataan residents should be consulted on the use of the mothballed facility, while Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev earlier said the plant was beyond revival because of its "absolutely outdated" technology.

The government is also in talks with Russia for nuclear power technology, including Moscow's idea of using floating nuclear power barges to bring electricity to island provinces. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier said there is a plan to use small modular nuclear reactors to power up Palawan and Sulu – areas which may be hard to connect to the national grid.

Meanwhile, the DOE is also set to start an open and competitive selection process for geothermal projects, which will be open to both Filipino and foreign-owned companies. Fuentebella said the government is currently focused on renewable energy, the reason for its recent issuances allowing 100% foreign ownership in the geothermal sector and suspending applications for new coal power plants.