In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order to incorporate nuclear power into the country’s energy mix as it prepares to phase out coal-fired plants. Earlier attempts to include nuclear power in the country’s energy mix failed due to safety concerns.
In a country where frequent power outages and high prices plague the energy industry, the order, signed on February 28 and published on Thursday, could prove to be a major step forward, but will also worry those opposed to it.
In addition to authorizing the creation of an interagency panel to look into the viability of restoring the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), the order was signed just three months before Duterte ended his six-year term.
Even when the public is concerned about safety, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has passionately endorsed nuclear power, saying it can solve the twin challenges of precarious supplies and high electricity prices.
As the Philippines seeks to retire its coal plants in line with its commitment to limit climate change, President Duterte said the Philippines would turn to nuclear power as an alternative baseload power source based on the experience of developed economies.
Nuclear energy efforts in the Philippines have previously failed due to safety concerns, but a key part of the new plan is that the BNPP, built under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, will be revamped. It was built in response to an energy crisis in 1976, completed in 1984, but the government mothballed it two years later after Marcos was overthrown, and when Chernobyl happened.
The BNPP is open to tourists for a fee since 2009, which helps defray its upkeep costs.