By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET
MANILA, Philippines â The campaign season is in full swing and so some of the public executives are in hot pursuit of getting voters' attention. This means many topics up for discussion are left unfinished, one of which is on nuclear power that was once hot topic among legislators especially with attempts to reactivate the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
Quietly, while everyone is busy with electioneering, a team of researchers from the Senate Economic Planning Office (SEPO) released their policy brief on the country's nuclear power capabilities.
The policy brief entitled âPowering the Future: Are We Ready for Nuclear Energyâ identifies the Philippines' current power resources and requirements, comparative power status with other countries, as well as the local and national regulations that the Philippines has to discuss and enforce before coming up with nuclear policies.
The policy brief was prepared by Harry Pasimio, Jr. and Peter Turingan and finished last September. A downloadable version is found in the official website of the Philippine Senate.
The brief uses reports from local and international reports as well.
It identified that the Philippines' current power demand is pegged at about 9,700 megawatts for the entire country and continues to grow as the population grows.
By 2017, peak power demand would reach at least 13,000 megawatts.
Nearly 50 percent of this power is produced oil and coal based power plants. Another 21 percent is hydroelectric, 17 percent is from natural gas and 12 percent is from geothermal.
However, even with about 30 percent of power produced is coming from renewable energy, the majority of the plants are using fossil fuel, which produces 4,078 metric tons of carbon dioxide per gigawatt-hour.
Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is associated with the negative effects of climate change. The Philippine government has also been working to reduce carbon emissions.
The increased power demand and plans to reduce ozone-depleting greenhouse gases are pushing options to look into cost-effective and environment-friendly power sources. Nuclear power thus became a major point of contention from legislators, scientists and environmentalists.
In particular was the proposal by Congressman Mark Cojuangco to revive the BNPP, which drew criticism from some scientists who said that the interpretation of certain scientific results were skewed by Cojuangco to justify the dilapidated plant's reactivation.
Given these situations, the policy brief made one conclusion: that the realization of the country's nuclear plans would take years to complete unless the government implements many measures to ensure that nuclear power is safely established, distributed, disposed and regulated.
âCurrent efforts in both Houses of Congress to fast track the rehabilitation and operation of the BNPP are akin to putting the cart before the horse. Before the government can operate the BNPP or any other NPP for that matter, it must first undertake the preliminary business of getting its nuclear power program back on track by updating the scientific/technical, legislative, and regulatory frameworks that will guide the development of the countryâs nuclear power industry.â
The points raised by the SEPO policy brief already points to a problem that legislators must first act on before rushing into having nuclear power. Hopefully, these points will be remembered by the next set of legislators after next year's elections.