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EO 164 first step to nuclear power, nuclear agency says

Executive Order 164 “Adopting a National Position for a Nuclear Energy Program and for Other Purposes” signed on February 28, 2022 by President Rodrigo Duterte is the first step to nuclear power, the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) says.

A national position or policy such as an executive order is the first of the 19 milestones approach prescribed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assist countries that are considering embarking on a nuclear power program.

The milestones were developed by the IAEA out of the combined best practices in the past 50 years of using nuclear energy, according to PNRI Director Dr. Carlo Arcilla.

“The first milestone is a national policy. It is just the ‘gate.’ And the gate says the Philippines is considering nuclear,” says Dr. Arcilla. “But then we still have to contend with the 18 more milestones. There is still a long series of steps. But without the EO, everything will be theoretical.”

The milestone approach breaks down the activities needed in establishing the infrastructure needed for a nuclear program. Completion of each milestone serves as reference point to decide one’s readiness to proceed to the next phase.

The 19 milestones focus on the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. The EO is anchored on these principles to ensure that the country will apply the highest standards in the implementation of a Nuclear Energy Program.

Included in the policy are the vetting of potential locations of nuclear power plants considering all audits and recommendations, and the development of the nuclear workforce of the Philippines supported by scholarships in nuclear science and engineering, and reactor technician training.

EO 164 was based on a comprehensive study that led to the crafting of a policy encompassing a wide range of issues, including the status of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Said EO was recommended by the Nuclear Energy Program Interagency Committee (NEPIAC) chaired by the Department of Energy (DOE) and vice-chaired by the DOST. Members are the DOST agencies PNRI, PAGASA, and PHIVOLCS; and the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

Nuclear power is seen to lower electricity costs and contribute to energy security as other energy sources such as natural gas, geothermal, hydro, and coal are diminishing. Through EO 164, nuclear power, which has benefitted several countries across the globe for more than six decades, will now be considered as an option to address the country’s energy concerns.

After setting the policy, the next phase will be the preparatory work for the contracting and construction of a nuclear power plant which includes establishment of legal and regulatory frameworks and public consultations.

In a DOE-commissioned public perception survey, it was found that close to 79 percent of Filipinos approve the possible addition of nuclear energy to the country’s energy mix. (Framelia V. Anonas | PNRI-Nuclear Information and Documentation Section)