The chief of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute said bringing nuclear science into the classrooms will help Filipino students learn and appreciate more the potential benefits the government can generate from atomic energy, like weaning away the country from its dependence on fossil fuel.
PNRI Director Alumanda Dela Rosa said harnessing nuclear power is strategic to any country's supply of energy, "which is the key to social and economic progress and holds the promise of more food, better health and greater productivity."
She added: "We are pinning our hope on the next generation of Filipinos who will be able to participate in the quest for new discoveries within the atom and we could provide them the facts during their formative years in high school and college so that when they become decision makers, they know the facts and they can decide."
The Institute, which succeeded the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission, conducts summer training courses on nuclear science for high school and college teachers at the PNRI training center in Diliman, Quezon City. The program runs for six weeks.
PNRI also holds nuclear awareness seminars in schools and accepts educational tours at the PNRI laboratories. It also sponsored the participation of teachers in international seminars and training programs through its linkage with foreign atomic energy agencies.
"We believe," she told the 134th general assembly of FUSE (Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Education), "we need to touch base with students, particularly those in secondary level and the reason for this is that atomic energy, when properly utilized, holds the promise of abundant power."
Turning to the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Dela Rosa said the controversial facility's sister plants in South Korea, Brazil and Slovenia, with the same technology are now operating and do not posed any serious problems.
Under the plan drawn up by the Department of Energy, the "window of opportunity" to harness nuclear power as source of energy may come in year 2025, which would drastically reduce the country's dependence on imported fuel and greatly diversify fuel sources.
The government, Dela Rosa recalled, had commissioned studies as early as the 1960s to determine the viability of a nuclear power plant in the country and in the 70s, during the oil crisis, decided to adopt a nuclear power program that led to the construction of the Bataan facility.
The years 1985-86, the PNRI head said, were a bleak period for nuclear power development as "nuclear power became a taboo in official planning circles."
Dela Rosa explained to the FUSE assembly, which strongly pushes Science, Math and English as the principal anchors of the education system, that nuclear science supports the development of emerging sciences such as biotechnology.
"The development in this field could not have been fast without the use of radioisotopes to trace the structures and functions of DNA and proteins." Radioisotopes are also utilized to scan the body for cancer and monitor the success of the treatment.
Dr. Alumanda M. dela Rosa, who heads the Institute, and Dr. Emerenciana B. Duran, President of Scientific Solutions International, Inc. (SSI), who undertook the construction of the infrastructure and the station’s initial testing, formally signed the certification turning over to PNRI the operation of the international monitoring facility sponsored by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). The RN52 facility forms part of the international “eyes and ears” of the organization that is on the look-out for nuclear weapons testing worldwide.
In her brief statement, Dr. dela Rosa lauded the collaborative effort of the Health Physics staff, led by Ms. Teresa Nazarea, and the SSI for laying the necessary groundwork leading to today’s turn-over rites. She also acknowledged the local weather bureau, PAGASA, who provided the site for the facility and who has made available two of its personnel to undertake the operation of the station together with four of PNRI’s staff.
Dr. Duran, on the other hand, expressed gratitude saying that the success of the endeavor is owed to the synergy between PNRI and SSI. She promised to entertain questions on the station’s operation should these arise, and stressed the importance of data quality and adherence to the standard operating procedures to ensure the smooth run of the facility. The company she heads will be responsible for preventive maintenance in the station until the year 2008.
The formal contract governing the operation of RN52 is expected to be finalized anytime today by the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO.
Two luminaries in the field of nuclear legislation were received by the PNRI for a one-week mission that seeks to assist the Institute in reviewing its draft bill governing the use and regulation of ionizing radiation.
Dr. George Philip and Dr. Carl Stoiber, who were dispatched by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are now holding discussions with the officials of the PNRI. This series of meetings, particularly, with the Institute’s regulatory arm, comes on the heels of a seminar they conducted yesterday with other stakeholders such as the Department of Health, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of Science and Technology, and legislative staff from the House of Representatives.
The proposed House Bill that is presently under review is intended to be an “Act to Regulate the Nuclear, Security and Safety Aspects in the Peaceful Utilization of Ionizing Radiation Sources through the Creation of the Philippine Nuclear Regulatory Authority”.
Though still at its earliest stages, the Bill’s approval and subsequent enactment is foreseen to contribute to the more effective regulatory control of radioactive sources and ionizing radiation sources, assuring a more adequate protection of the health and safety of the public.
The national nuclear agency, PNRI, is currently hosting the First Technical Meeting on Research Reactor Decommissioning Demonstration Project (R2D2P) from 26 to 30 June 2006 attended to, by seventeen (17) foreign delegates.
The activity, which will be locally participated in by Mr. Leonardo S. Leopando and Mr. Teofilo Leonin, Jr., is being organized under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and aims to provide information to other countries on the various techniques used throughout the decommissioning process for research reactors.
The Philippine Research Reactor-1 (PRR-1) will be used as a demonstration facility for the series of technical meetings that will be held on this subject.
R2D2P is in response to the perceived need of an increasing number of Member States whose research reactors have remained in a "state of limbo" due to lack of a decommissioning policy, expertise or the necessary funds to effectively implement decommissioning. The whole project aims to provide a platform for practical training in activities related to safe decommissioning, including aspects ranging from the establishment of a regulatory infrastructure for the regulatory body to the final release of the facility from regulatory control.
For the first technical meeting, resource persons from Sweden, USA and the International Atomic Energy Agency will be on hand to facilitate the discussions.