Most ASEAN countries gear up for ‘nuclear renaissance’

By Myrna M. Velasco – April 21, 2017, 10:00 PM

from Manila Bulletin

After backpedaling a bit since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, a new survey shows that majority of countries in the Southeast Asian region are inclined at re-embracing ‘nuclear option’ in the energy mix.

“Nuclear energy is being seen by ASEAN members as a long-term source of power,” a study undertaken by the ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE) and Canada’s Nuclear and Radiological Program has noted.

But the Philippine Department of Energy (DOE), which recently hosted a conference discussing nuclear power issues, expressed caution saying this must be done with utmost security and culture of safety considerations.

Philippines Energy Undersecretary Jesus Posadas emphasized the need for “regional and international cooperation to advance the use of civilian nuclear energy in the ASEAN region.”

A national position is still being crafted for the Philippines, but energy officials said the country is not exactly starting from zero because it should have been ahead on this terrain had the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) not been mothballed.

With aspirations for robust economic growth, Posadas said the country has to re-think its position – and that nuclear power is seen as the answer to industrialization goals.

The dilemma, however is that, this technology alternative remains a ‘hard sell’ to prospective investors, primarily in the private sector-driven electricity sector.

“The Philippines will need a kind of energy that will power the economic development resulting from the R8.9 trillion worth of investments in infrastructure in the next 5 years,” Posadas said.

He added “nuclear power has the potential of meeting such huge energy demand,” and this is a kind of fuel that could last longer compared to other choices.

Nuclear, the department stressed, would also be an inescapable option if it has to keep pace with the economic growth and development trajectories of neighbors in the region.