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Philippines allows nuclear power resurrection to phase out coal

FILE PHOTO: The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is seen during a media tour around the BNPP compound in Morong town, Bataan province, Philippines September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has signed an executive order to incorporate nuclear power in the country’s energy mix, as officials prepare to phase out coal-fired power facilities and after previous attempts failed owing to safety concerns.

The news: The directive, which was made public on Thursday, might represent a watershed moment for an economy plagued by seasonal power disruptions and high electricity prices, but others are concerned.

  • The directive, which was signed three months before Duterte’s single six-year term ends, also authorises an inter-agency group to examine into restoring the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which has been closed for years (BNPP).
  • The national government commits to the introduction of nuclear power energy into the state’s energy mix, it stated.
  • Nuclear power, according to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, might help address supply difficulties and excessive costs.

What’s going on: As the Philippines prepares to retire coal plants in order to fulfil climate objectives, Duterte stated nuclear power would be considered as a potential alternative baseload power source.

  • Previous attempts to pursue nuclear energy in the Philippines have been discontinued due to safety concerns, but the latest idea is based on a proposal to resurrect the BNPP, which was built in response to an energy crisis during dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ reign.

What happened: Following Marcos’ fall and the fatal Chernobyl nuclear tragedy, the plant was shut down two years later.

  • BNPP has become a tourist attraction since 2009, helping to pay the costs of its upkeep.

What are they saying: “The Duterte administration is about to leave a tarred legacy and is setting us up for another horror story like Chernobyl and Fukushima,” Greenpeace campaigner Khevin Yu said, referring to the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

  • Nuclear power still requires legislation, according to Energy Undersecretary Gerardo Erguiza Jr, and its future is also dependent on the agenda of the next administration.
  • Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the late dictator’s son and the front-runner in the May presidential election, has stated that he intended to “revisit” the BNPP project.
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