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Gatchalian: PH far from using nuclear technology as national power resource


By Mario Casayuran

The Philippines is far from using nuclear technology as a national power resource. Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, said Thursday.

Gatchalian said the Philippines has a lot to learn from more advanced countries with respect to the development of nuclear technology.

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

He maintained that there is a wide range of issues that the Philippines need to explore and thresh out before it can accurately measure the true potential of nuclear technology as an alternative energy source in the Philippines.

Should the Philippines decide to pursue adding nuclear power to the energy mix, Gatchalian said a comprehensive legal framework on the use of nuclear power would first need to be crafted to tackle issues.

These are:

  • The structure and powers of the regulatory body
  • Licensing, inspection, and enforcement
  • Radiation protection
  • Sources of radiation and radioactive material; Safety of nuclear facilities
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Transport of radioactive material
  • Radioactive waste and spent fuel
  • Nuclear liability and coverage
  • Non-proliferation and physical protection
  • Export and import control
  • 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, Gatchalian said.

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

Gatchalian said that the Philippines has yet to ratify three key international nuclear conventions.

These are 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 Aquilino Pimentel II and joined by Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos (chairman 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 Laboratory – 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 (DOE) is studying the possibility of adding nuclear power to the country’s energy mix.

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