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Nuclear option

President Duterte has signed an executive order that would pave the way for the government to tap nuclear power as an alternative energy source. Executive Order No. 164 outlined the country’s national position for a nuclear energy program, which takes into account economic, political, social and environmental objectives.

According to the EO, for the country to have a reliable, secure, sustainable, quality and affordable electricity supply, including sufficient reserve to guarantee that there will be no disruption in the power supply; nuclear power shall be tapped as a viable alternative baseload power source along with alternative energy resources. This is to address the decline of coal-fired power plants which come under increasing environmental opposition.

“The State envisions nuclear power as a viable component to bridge the gap between rising energy demands and supply, taking into account learnings from the past, national, social and economic development pathways, as well as international legal and regulatory frameworks, and best practices,” the EO added. Under the order, the State shall ensure the “peaceful use” of nuclear technology.

The Department of Energy had earlier completed a feasibility study on the viability of introducing nuclear power in the country’s energy mix.

The order, signed February 28 and made public on March 3, could be a major milestone for the country’s energy sector which suffers regular power outages and high prices but will concern advocates against nuclear power.

Previous attempts to pursue nuclear energy failed due to safety concerns, but central to the new plan is the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, built in 1976 during the rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was mothballed due to safety concerns in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, along with issues regarding massive corruption.

In the wake of the twin problems of never-ending power shortages amidst the urgent to shift to alternative sources of energy for the sake of the planet, it would be irresponsible to hastily dismiss the nuclear energy option if it can be made available in a manner that is safe, sustainable, and affordable.

The EO that puts the option on the table can serve the country well only if we explore it thoroughly, ideally pitting it against the other available alternative and renewable energy options and technologies that we should also be actively exploring as the country finds ways to meet the present and future energy demands while at the same time protecting the health and safety of the public and doing our share in mitigating the urgent climate crisis that the globe is facing.*

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