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PH lacks legal framework for nuclear power

MANDALUYONG CITY, Philippines – High-rise residential buildings accentuate a neighborhood in Mandaluyong City at night, highlighting the metro’s growing consumption of electricity. Should the Philippines pursue nuclear energy for its energy mix, Senator Win Gatchalian said the country must have a strong national framework on nuclear power that must be compliant with international standards on safety, security, safeguards, and liability. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian on Thursday said the Philippines has a lot to learn from more advanced countries with respect to the development of nuclear technology as a national power resource.

“There is a wide range of issues that we need to explore and thresh out before we can accurately measure the true potential of nuclear technology as an alternative energy source in the Philippines,” he said.

The senator said that should the Philippines decide to pursue adding nuclear power to the energy mix, a comprehensive legal framework on the use of nuclear power would first need to be crafted to tackle issues such as: (a) The structure and powers of the regulatory body; (b) Licensing, inspection, and enforcement; (c) Radiation protection; (d) Sources of radiation and radioactive material; (e) Safety of nuclear facilities; (f) Emergency preparedness and response; (g) Transport of radioactive material; (h) Radioactive waste and spent fuel; (i) Nuclear liability and coverage; (j) Non-proliferation and physical protection; (k) Export and import controls; and (l) Physical protection.

At present, the country’s only existing nuclear energy body is the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), whose functions center around radiation and nuclear research and development.

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

The senator added that the Philippines has yet to ratify three key international nuclear conventions, namely 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.

“A strong national framework on nuclear power must be compliant with international standards on safety, security, safeguards, and liability,” he said.

Gatchalian participated in a study tour earlier this month to learn about the current nuclear technologies of certain European countries. He was part of the delegation led by Senate President Koko Pimentel, and joined by Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos (chair of the Philippines Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization) and Dr. Carlo Arcilla, the Director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI).

Among the sites the delegation visited were the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Office of Legal Affairs and the IAEA Seidersdorf Laborary – both in the Vienna, Austria – and the Slovenia Nuclear Safety Administration (SNSA) and the Krsko Nuclear Power Plant, which are both found in Slovenia.

Currently, the Department of Energy is studying the possibility of adding nuclear power to the country’s energy mix.