The government now entertains the nuclear power option in its quest to attain energy security in the future.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in his first State-of-the-Nation-Address, said it was time to re-examine the strategy for building nuclear power plants in the Philippines.
“We will comply, of course, with the International Atomic Energy Agency regulations for nuclear power plants as they have been strengthened after Fukushima. In the area of nuclear power, there have been new technologies developed that allow smaller scale modular nuclear plants and other derivations thereof,” Marcos said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency defines SMRs as advanced nuclear reactors with a capacity of up to 300 megawatts, or about a third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors.
SMRs are smaller in size than conventional power reactors and easier to install.
Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said the previous administration laid the groundwork for the country’s nuclear energy policy.
“The challenge before us, which the President has also indicated, is that we will be open, and we’ll look into the options for nuclear because nuclear is non-carbon emitting,” Lotilla said.
“For the small modular power plants, we will attend to them when they become commercially available. But right now, we will focus instead on one, for example, establishing the regulatory framework,” he said.
The energy chief said, however, that the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute is both the regulator and promoter of nuclear power.
“That’s a big no-no; you cannot be promoting something and saying you are regulating it at the same time. These are the kind of things we have to address,” he said.
Lotilla said the president conveyed the need to fully consider and abide by the requirements of the IAEA, especially after the Fukushima accident, where compliance requirements were reinforced and strengthened.
“We will be forward-looking and attend to this during this administration. So we would be ready once the technologies are available to fill them.
The IAEA Milestones Approach is a phased comprehensive method to assist countries in considering or planning their first nuclear power plant.
Lotilla said nuclear has the highest capacity factor among power technologies.
“That means the ability of nuclear power plants to produce power is the highest among all the sources of energy right now. It’s in the 90 percent, while solar 22 percent to 23 percent, coal maybe in the 50 percent, nuclear at the highest,” Lotilla said.
“But, there’s is a big but. The levelized cost of energy coming from nuclear because of the upfront investment and so on, and even the unanticipated cost that come out later as well, as down the line, the disposal of waste, relevelized cost of energy from nuclear is among the higher ones,” Lotilla said.
He said one of the most important points is to address the concerns of the host communities.
“We would have to strengthen the trust and confidence of our people in the ability of government to regulate safely, to put up necessary standards. We can even look at this from the regional standpoint,” he said.