ASEAN members pitch for nuclear energy

MANILA-- A pre-feasibility study unveiled during the recently concluded 7th Annual Meeting of the Nuclear Energy Cooperation Sub-Sector Network (NEC-SSN) showed that many member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are in favor of tapping nuclear energy for peaceful or commercial use.

The three-day summit, which ended April 19 at the Sofitel Hotel, was hosted by the Philippines with the Department of Energy (DOE), headed by Secretary Alfonso Cusi, as the lead agency in facilitating the conference chaired by Malaysia.

According to a department news release, a study conducted by ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE) Canada's Nuclear and Radiological Program showed that nuclear energy is seen by ASEAN members as a long-term source of power.

DOE Undersecretary Jess Posadas, who represented Secretary Cusi, underscored regional and international cooperation to advance the use of civilian nuclear energy (CNE) in the ASEAN region.

Posadas also highlighted Cusi's stance that the meeting was timely as it afforded the Philippines insights while it tries to develop and formulate its national position on nuclear energy.

In his speech opening the summit, Posadas said the Philippines will need a kind of energy that will power economic development resulting from the PHP8.9 trillion worth of investments in infrastructure in the next five years.

Pagnakita mo 'yung (If you see the) golden age of infrastructure, magugulat ka (you will be surprised) Train na lang, electric lahat 'yun. Magkakaron pa tayo ng subway (The train for one is electric. We will also have a subway), he said. "If the infrastructure projects will be built, the Philippines will need huge amounts of energy."

Nuclear power has the potential to meet such huge energy demand, according to Posadas, noting that 1 gram of uranium is equivalent to 1.8 million cubic meters of oil and 3 million grams of coal.

"Nuclear energy would last longer than other fuels," he said.

The Philippines has always viewed nuclear energy as a long-term option for power generation that will provide supply security, stability and reliability. Should this be the path that the country will take, nuclear further diversifies our existing generation mix comprised of coal, natural gas, geothermal, hydropower, oil, wind, biomass and solar.

Owing to its base load characteristics, nuclear energy will be in support of the thrust of the Philippine government, which is the realization of the Philippine Development Plan's (PDP) drive for industrialization and urbanization. It is central for a country towards the path of development to have the available and required capacity to meet the nation's increasing demand requirements, Posadas added.

Moreover, nuclear's pivotal role to augment supply will also aid in accomplishing Ambisyon Natin 2040, a long-term vision that highlights the aspirations, values and principles of the Filipino people for themselves and for the country.

Posadas also pointed out that the Philippines is privileged to have a President that personifies strong political will, which is essentially one decisive factor if a country is to embark on a nuclear power program.

The DOE official emphasized that discussions on nuclear energy, as well as radioactive sources, tend to attract issues on security.

We are cognizant of this and must admit that this issue cannot be discounted as people and the environment must always be protected. As you would note, security and physical protection is just one of the 19 infrastructure issues identified by the IAEA for countries pursuing nuclear power development," he told the forum.

"When we talk about radioactive sources, there is also emphasis on security. There must be a security culture practiced and a system well in place.

Many of the resource persons emphasized that to realize the full potential of nuclear energy, ASEAN governments must come up with clear-cut policies, legal and regulatory framework, infrastructure and unstinting support for it through capacity build-up.

Malaysia presented its efforts for public acceptance of nuclear energy as the power source carries with it some stigma because of nuclear accidents, such as Japan's Fukushima incident.

Malaysia was represented by Song Wong Tin, with the Philippines, represented by DOE's Carmencita Bariso as vice-chair.

In attendance were NEC-SSN focal persons from the ASEAN member states of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as representatives from the ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE).

Also represented were the China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp. (CNEC), Integrated Support Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security (ISCN), Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation (EU CBRN) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNCRI) Centres of Excellence (COE).

Teofilo Leonin of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), 2017 chairperson of the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM), discussed potential areas of cooperation with AMS on nuclear regulatory.

Shi Boxuan of the CNEC, on the other hand, led the contract signing for the Clean Energy Project between ACE and CNEC, and expressed interests in future collaborations with AMS.

The NEC-SSN also welcomed and duly noted the initiatives of the EU CBRN UNCRI COE on nuclear protection in the ASEAN region. Reina Matsuzawa of ISCN/JAEA and Dr. Kusnanto of ACE discussed the productive outcome of the Seminar on Nuclear Security and the Capacity Building on Nuclear Material Transport.

Source: Philippines News Agency