Manila Bulletin : Creation of nuclear power regulatory agency urged

By Myrna M. Velasco | Manila Bulletin

The next administration of presumptive President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is being urged to issue an executive order (EO) creating a regulatory agency that will oversee nuclear power development in the Philippines.

According to ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera, an EO can be issued creating an agency under the Office of the President just to “oversee the revival” of the country’s nuclear power sector.

She emphasized that since the country’s last nuclear power project, the idled 620-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), had been undertaken in the 1980s, the Philippines will be straddling “incubation phase” again on this particular technology deployment.

“It will really be ‘baby steps’, especially so since that there have been accidents in other countries… so that should be looked into,” Devanadera stressed.

In her view, the Malacanang-created regulatory agency will be a critical body “to help, to look into, and to shepherd the incubation of these ideas.”

The ERC chief further stated that from roughly 36 years ago, technologies on nuclear power installations have already changed, so it is crucial for the prospective industry regulators to seriously study all of these new facets of project developments.

Apart from the conventional massive-scale installations, nuclear power technology suppliers are now offering the small modular reactors (SMRs) that can be rolled out at just the range of 100MW or less to cater even to island-grid domains.

In the country’s long-term energy mix, Devanadera opined that nuclear is one technology that the country can potentially lean into for baseload capacity. This can similarly be aligned with “decarbonization goals” to solve global dilemma of climate change risks.

“Why do we have to give so much importance to nuclear? That’s the only source that can provide big capacity. On the other hand, technology has already changed, they now come in modules, so there should be an agency that will look into all of these,” she pointed out.

Devanadera indicated the ideal regulatory body shall be a separate entity and not just be an adjunct or extension of the current function of the ERC. It is also important that the regulators of nuclear power will be those that have expertise on this technology, she said.

The Duterte administration has laid down the national program for nuclear power developments as a component of the country’s long term energy plan and as a potential replacement to coal-fired power in the energy mix.

The Department of Energy (DOE), in particular, has been pushing for a legislated policy that shall underpin fresh round of nuclear power investments in the country, but that has not progressed well in the 18th Congress.

In the energy department’s assessment, if all the warranted policies and regulatory frameworks will already be set in place, nuclear power via deployment of SMRs may already be concretized in the country as early as 2027 or 2028.