by Angelica Yang | March 14, 2021 | Published by Philstar.com | READ THE STORY HERE
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding last week to work together to develop the Philippines’ nuclear power program.
The MOU was signed by Energy Undersecretary Gerardo Erguiza and US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins.
Erguiza said he believes the partnership with the US will help improve the country’s capacities in building nuclear infrastructure.
“Through our cooperation, we hope to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy and fulfill our decarbonization goals,” Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, who witnessed the signing, said in a statement posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website on Monday.
This comes a few weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order committing the Philippines to introducing nuclear power in its energy mix and developing a nuclear energy program for it.
The EO, which was signed on February 28, instructs the DOE to develop and implement the nuclear energy program under the Philippine Energy Plan, a comprehensive energy blueprint which details the energy sector’s goals in achieving a clean energy future.
Duterte said in the EO that nuclear power is a “viable alternative source” of baseload power that can bridge the gap between rising demand and supply.
The EO also instructed an interagency body — the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee —to study the possible use of the $2.2-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which was mothballed and never refueled.
Public policy think tank InfraWatch PH earlier told Philstar.com that Duterte’s EO comes a little too late as he has only a few months left in his term. This leaves the fate of his nuclear push to his successor who may choose to adopt or reverse the new energy policy.
‘Nuclear will not solve climate crisis’
Manila-based climate and energy policy group Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities said that, contrary to the government’s claims, nuclear is no better than coal.
“Nuclear is even worse than coal for energy security and self-sufficiency. It has always been plagued with protracted construction timelines and gargantuan costs that require constant massive subsidies,” ICSC Executive Director Red Constantino told Philstar.com over email on Monday.
“[Nuclear] can only operate on a single level and cannot be ramped up or down. It is extremely rigid and completely unfit to respond to the country’s load profile,” he said.
Constantino said the DOE should take its power sector modernization goals more seriously and prioritize flexible generation by ramping up support for renewable energy.
Last week, activists from environmental group Greenpeace Philippines marched to the DOE and called the push for nuclear power a “questionable energy policy which is the last thing the country needs.”
The protest took place on March 11 during the commemoration of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, which killed at least 20,000 people, contaminated 240,000 square kilometers of land and caused $235 billion (around P12 trillion) of damage.
“Greenpeace…maintains that nuclear power will not solve the climate crisis. The entire nuclear power plant life cycle contributes significantly to climate change, and these facilities take an average of 10 years to build,” the group said in a statement.
Citing findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Greenpeace said humanity only has until 2030 to keep the global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Setting up the country’s nuclear program and building a plant will take decades. Meanwhile, Filipinos will continue to suffer from climate impacts,” it said.
Instead of focusing on a nuclear policy, the current administration should have instead doubled its efforts to ensure that renewable energy “gets a better foothold” in the country’s energy future, according to Greenpeace Campaigner Khevin Yu.
Photo by Jiru27 via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0