Ratification of int’l conventions needed in PH nuclear framework

By Myrna M. Velasco – June 16, 2018, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

Ratification by the Philippine Congress of at least three international conventions on nuclear power development must come first even before the country could craft and institutionalize its own legal and regulatory frameworks on nuclear energy renaissance goal.

“There are three important conventions that the Senate would need to ratify – and for it (Philippines) to have its international network before we can even create a legal framework,” Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian said.

He was referring to the: Convention on Nuclear Safety; the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management; and the Amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

These global conventions, the legislator opined, could greatly aid the country in crafting its legal, regulatory as well as the overall policy framework on its nuclear power development roadmap.

“The framework shall follow these conventions… it will set the basis for the legal framework,” he reiterated.

Energy officials are well aware that after botched nuclear ambition several decades back, the country will need to take “baby steps” anew on the deployment of nuclear technology or even on plans of bringing back the idled Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) on stream.

The Philippines should have been ahead on this course – tracing back development plans in the 1970s to 1980s – in which the BNPP could have paralleled the Kori nuclear facility of South Korea, Krško of Slovenia and Angra of Brazil. Unfortunately though, because of politics and allegations of corruption, the country inauspiciously lost its track on this power development terrain.

Gatchalian added that in their recent visit to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, the key policy advice given to the Philippine delegation had been the need “to study these conventions and then the conventions will eventually be the legal basis of (the) laws.”

He similarly acknowledged the exhaustive predicament that the country would need to sort out on its inclination to take another plunge on the nuclear energy pathway.

He said “all of the gaps in our nuclear energy legal framework would first need to be addressed by passing comprehensive legislation.”

Issues and concerns when it comes to nuclear power developments already turned too long and varied – from public acceptance; humongous upfront capital investment; recycling and storage/disposal of spent fuel; safety and equipment redundancy installation as well as siting issues; nuclear liability and coverage; and up to policy and regulatory frameworks. All of these have so far been enshrouded in the Philippines energy planning and policy-setting in the past years.

For the country, “social acceptance” comes as the biggest hurdle that the government must address, with many targeted host communities taking on that “not in my backyard” mindset.

And in the restructured sphere of the Philippine energy sector that is now largely private sector driven, nuclear power facilities would also have extreme struggle finding their place under merchant market conditions.

Beyond the proposed repowering of the BNPP, the Duterte administration is cementing its way into exploring the place of nuclear in the country’s energy future – including the deployment of new technologies such as modular nuclear facilities.

On a levelized basis over time, the DOE indicated that “nuclear power is an economical source – that could be high on productivity and reliability, and low on per kilowatt hour cost and emissions.”