UN-sanctioned body to help RP put up nuclear regulatory council

Published by rudy Date posted on April 22, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a nuclear body sanctioned by the United Nations, will help the Philippines in the establishment of a nuclear regulatory council, the country’s top energy official said yesterday.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said he met with IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei at the sidelines of the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century being held in Beijing, China. 

Reyes said the IAEA official also committed in the government’s information drive to educate the public on to assist nuclear energy.

Reyes said ElBaradei likewise commended the Philippine government for being deliberate in studying the possibility of nuclear as among the country’s energy options in the long-term. 

The IAEA head also assured the Philippines of the agency’s continued assistance especially in the area of human resource capability building in the various facets of nuclear science and engineering. 

Reyes heads the seven-man Philippine delegation to the Beijing Conference. With him are Pangasinan Rep. Mark Conjuangco, National Power Corp. president Frolian Tampinco, Philippine Nuclear Research Institute deputy director Corazon Bernido, DOE Task Force on Nuclear Power Program vice-chairman Salvador Salire Jr., Napocor’s asset preservation manager Mauro Marcelo and DOE technical assistant Emerlito Angulo.

Reyes, for his part, expressed appreciation to the continuing assistance of the IAEA to the Philippine government in the field of nuclear energy. 

In particular, he lauded ElBaradei for sending an expert mission to the Philippines to advice the government on the necessary infrastructure requirement in case it decides to launch a nuclear power program. The IAEA official also suggested steps to be taken to reach an informed decision on whether or not to rehabilitate the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

It may be recalled that an eight-man expert team was sent by the IAEA in January 2008 upon request of the DOE.

Under the leadership of ElBaradei, the IAEA was conferred the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for being an “unafraid advocate of atoms for peace, not warheads.” 

Reyes praised the multilateral approach which ElBaradei has been advocating to facilitate the safe and secure use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while reducing the risk of proliferation.

For his part, Rep. Cojuangco noted the importance of coming up with an acceptable solution to the issue of final repository of nuclear wastes. 

The lawmaker requested IAEA to make a position on the ongoing debate on sub-sea geological repository if only to keep this option open for consideration in the future.

Further, Cojuangco noted that the possible imposition of carbon tax which is currently being discussed in the international environmental circles may be advantageous for the promotion of nuclear power in view of its carbon-neutral nature. 

The DOE expects additional nuclear capacities of 600 megawatts to be in place by 2027.

With this, the total capacity from nuclear power under the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 1998-2035 was projected to reach 2,400 MW by the end of the planning period.

Under the PEP, the government will be pushing for capability building and enhancement on the various aspects of nuclear energy which will specifically involve training of local manpower for the possible introduction of nuclear into the country’s energy system.

The DOE is currently looking at the possibility of rebuilding local technical capability in nuclear sciences and engineering.

At present, it was noted that the manpower capability of the National Power Corp., the state-owned power generating firm, in nuclear engineering has declined from the original number of 710 engineers trained by Westinghouse and Ebasco Overseas Corp. in the 1980s to 106, many of whom are now bound for retirement in the next five to 10 years.

IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on July 29, 1957. In 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned the creation of this international body to control and develop the use of atomic energy.

The Philippine government had spent about $2.1 billion for the construction of the BNPP and is setting aside up to now some P40 million a year for its maintenance.

The DOE said that it has yet to determine if the rehabilitation of BNPP will be undertaken by the government or by the private sector. It was estimated that the rehabilitation of BNPP could cost more than $800 million.

The first nuclear power facility in the country, the BNPP was supposed to operate commercially in 1986 but was mothballed due to extreme opposition from various environmental and cause-oriented groups. -— Donnabelle L. Gatdula, Philippine Star

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