The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading House Bill 8733 or the proposed “Comprehensive Nuclear Regulation Act” which provides for a comprehensive nuclear regulatory framework and, to this end, establishing the Philippine Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is one of the principal authors of this bill, which received 206 affirmative votes and no abstention.
HB 8733 seeks to establish a legal framework that will adequately protect public health and safety, as well as the environment against the negative effects of ionizing radiation. It shall further work for the safety and security of radiation resources.
A regulatory system shall be created for the formulation and adoption of regulations and guidelines on the use of ionizing radiation. It shall specify the principles, requirements, and associated criteria for safety and security, which shall be the bases of all regulations, judgments, decisions, and actions.
The bill recognizes that the State shall (a) harness the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, (b) recognize the potential harmful effects of ionizing radiation;
(c) protect the society and the environment, (d) establish a legal and regulatory framework for the regulation and control of the peaceful uses of nuclear resources, (e) manage radioactive waste, and (f) establish a legal and regulatory framework to prevent, detect, and respond to unauthorized activities involving nuclear materials.
Any individual who will violate the provisions of this proposed Act shall be penalized with imprisonment of at most five years, and/or shall be meted a fine ranging from P1 million to P5 million.
The bill also aims to establish the Philippine Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a single and independent nuclear regulatory body that shall exercise authority over all aspects of safety, security, and safeguards involving nuclear materials and other radioactive materials, facilities, and radiation generating equipment.
For this purpose, the PNRC shall undertake the following functions, among others: (a) formulate and issue policies, regulations, necessary for implementing the Act; (b) issue regulations on financial capability of operators to cover liability for nuclear damage; (c) inspect, monitor, and assess activities to ensure compliance; (d) coordinate with other bodies competent in areas such as health and safety, environmental protection, security, and transportation of nuclear and related dangerous goods; and (e) act as the national authority on nuclear safety, security, and regulatory matters relative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
With this, the measure shall transfer all powers, duties, records, files, and assets pertaining to nuclear and radioactive materials as well as facilities from the existing Philippine Nuclear Research Institute to the PNRC.
The regulatory powers of the PNRI’s Nuclear Regulatory Division, as well as the Radiation Regulatory Divisions of the Center for Device Regulation, Radiation, Health and Research, and the Department of Health shall likewise be reassigned to the PNRC.
The incumbent President shall appoint a Commissioner to head the PNRC, who shall be assisted by four Deputy Commissioners.
The Commissioner shall recommend an executive director to ensure proper management and effective implementation of the PNRC’s functions. He/she shall assist in carrying out executive and administrative functions, coordinate and direct the activities of the staff, as well as recommend and develop plans to achieve the Commission’s objectives.
The bill mandates the PNRC to charge and collect reasonable fees in the performance of its regulatory functions. These shall be deposited with the Bureau of Treasury as income of the general fund.
In addition, there shall be a Nuclear Waste Management Fund to come from a portion of the payment of the electricity generated from the nuclear energy use. The Fund shall exclusively be used for the safe disposal of nuclear waste, which shall include site research, transport, and final geological disposal.
An Advisory Board to be formed shall be comprised of the Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology as Chairperson, the Secretary of the Department of Health as Vice Chairperson, and the Secretaries of the Department of Energy, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of National Defense, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Agriculture as Members, as well as a maximum of five members from the academe or non-government organizations.