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DOE wants expanded nuclear power body placed under Palace’s watch

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By Myrna M. Velasco

The Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing for the creation of an expanded inter-agency nuclear power development body that shall be headed by the Office of the President, especially on the sphere on regulation.

Department of Energy (DOE) logo

Department of Energy (DOE) logo
(MANILA BULLETIN)

According to Energy Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos, that has been the main thrust of the propounded Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization (NEPIO) which shall be broadened in scope and to be reinforced by an Executive Order (EO) to be issued by Malacañang.

Marcos noted that they would want NEPIO expanded and for it to be a Commission placed under the direct supervision of the Office of the President. The proposed EO has been submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte, but Malacañang has yet to act on it.

“We would want the regulatory framework to be with the Office of the President, so it sets a stronger thrust for the country’s nuclear power aspirations,” he said.

The energy department is reviving nuclear as an option on its “energy mix toolbox” and for this to become part of the country’s pathway into attaining long-time elusive goal of cheaper electricity tariffs.

And this time around, the energy department felt the need to be aided by international expert Michael Shellenberger, founder and president of research policy organization Environmental Progress (EP), in explaining nuclear technology as a long-term energy option for the Philippines.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi reiterated that his department is “seeking innovative solutions to make power rate in the Philippines go down,” thus, he set forth that they want stakeholders lend an ear to Shellenberger, “as we ponder the feasibility of bringing nuclear power into the energy mix of the country.”

Since his first year in office, Cusi was a clear advocate of nuclear technology option – but concretizing plans had been the track he’s struggling with.

At the same time, many investors in the Philippine power industry frown upon the idea of having nuclear as an addition to the mix; for key reasons like: It is a difficult play on social acceptance; and the upfront cost on nuclear technology installation will be extremely expensive – a dilemma that even developed countries had a tough time dealing with.

With Shellenberger’s visit to the country this week, Cusi aimed that discussions on the country’s nuclear pathway will be stirred up again and is hoped to enhance awareness and eventual public acceptance.

It must be recalled that the energy department also pressed for the revival of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), but after the conclusion of a study on that by parties led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the DOE had turned tightlipped on future plans for the idled facility.

Cusi, for now, is just sounding off that the department is targeting to integrate nuclear as part of the country’s future energy mix – and the terrain of development will lean on new builds.

“We adopted a technology-neutral approach to break barriers against the attainment of our energy goals,” the DOE chief stressed, emphasizing that with Shellenberger’s insights, he might be able “to fill some gaps and broaden our perspectives on nuclear power even further.”

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