DOE still considering nuclear in its long-term energy plan

By Myrna M. Velasco – November 4, 2016, 10:01 PM

from Manila Bulletin

For a comprehensive Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) that shall stretch until year 2040, the Department of Energy (DOE) indicated that nuclear power would still be integrated as a component of the long-term power development aspiration of the country.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi concurred that it may no longer be feasible to have one under the Duterte administration, but it could still be a prudent option in the country’s future needs for baseload capacity.

When asked by the media if nuclear power facility will be a fixture in the updated PEP, the energy chief’s outright response was “of course, we’re doing a 15-year plan, and up to 2040.”

On long-term capacity additions, he qualified that onward power development milieu is also assessed based on projections of 7.0 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth and at population expansion rate of 1.8 percent.

It must be noted that President Rodrigo Duterte already nixed nuclear as an option during his watch, which in turn, will also be likely reflected in the policy agendas and planning run of the DOE.

“At the DOE, we’ll always look at all options available.   That’s what I’ve been saying from the very beginning, all sources of energy, we’re looking at them without bias, that’s our job,” Cusi said.

Still, he defers to President Duterte’s direction relative to nuclear power development for the country.

“The President is the master planner. He’s the architect and he’s the foreman, we just have to do our job… think for him, we need to provide the necessary information,” the energy chief added.

Nuclear power is being re-embraced as a base load capacity option for many countries, but higher premium on safety and improved technical standards are set following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster in Japan.

Nevertheless, some power markets pursuing new nuclear power projects are currently saddled with expensive upfront costs – cases in point are the Hinkley Point C project of the United Kingdom and the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear project of Finland, hence, causing delays and setbacks in project implementations.

For the Philippines, the bigger dilemmas are starting point on social acceptance and nuclear engineering skills – since most of those involved in the country’s first experiment on nuclear power in the 1980s are either retired or no longer around.

Policy and regulatory frameworks would also need to be re-written, and these alone need extensive discussions and planning to craft.