DOE urged to be ‘more transparent’ on Russia deal

By Myrna M.Velasco – October 11, 2019, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

Amid new reports of a deal with Russia on prospective deployment of modular nuclear reactors, the Senate has prodded the Department of Energy (DOE) to be more transparent and might as well disclose all key information relating to that agreement.

Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian took the energy department to task at the scrutiny of the P97 million worth of budget that it has been asking for the supposed onward development of the country’s nuclear development program.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi indicated that the new deal with Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation delves with the conduct of a feasibility study for possible installation of modular nuclear technology as part of the future energy mix of the Philippines.

He qualified that the deal is at very preliminary stage and it just entails the need to undertake a study on that particular facet of nuclear technology deployment – which will then serve as supplement to the proposed nuclear power development agenda that the DOE has already submitted to the Office of the President.

Gatchalian nevertheless chided the DOE that the compass on the country’s nuclear power development program seems swinging in all directions – and it has not been tracking any particular pathway.

“Right now, it appears that there’s no direction,” he stressed, raising a further query that “if there’s no direction, does that mean that we still pursue or is that a tacit signal to pursue?”

The lawmaker asserted that the government already spent P48 million for the proposed nuclear power program – and there is proposal to allocate additional P97 million for next year. To sum up, that will already redound to P135 million spending and nothing has been concretized yet even at just the level of nuclear power policy for the country.

If truth be told, Gatchalian averred, “We don’t know whether the President wants to pursue it or not,” citing that in the recent deal cemented with Russia, the President went up to the extent of making a statement that “this (nuclear power deal) might be unconstitutional.”

Gatchalian further whined that “Right now, we don’t have a signal from the President on whether to go or not to go. And yet we are undertaking more studies.”

And at this stage wherein the country’s proposed nuclear power development agenda is not really gaining traction especially on the social acceptance domain, Gatchalian opined that the DOE must foster more transparency on its nuclear power policy crafting, as in the process, such may help shore up public acceptance on that targeted technology option.

“I think the more transparency we show the public, the more confidence that we build,” the lawmaker emphasized. Further, he is requiring the DOE to submit a breakdown of how it spent its allocation last year for its nuclear power study.