Houston, Texas – Not wanting to be outdone by neighbor Vietnam, the Philippines has asserted that it will slot in “nuclear option” in its bid to re-balance its power mix in the future.
“We are working on 30-30-30 fuel mix, so there’s a balance of 10 percent and that we are looking for nuclear as still an option because it’s a low carbon technology,” Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Zenaida Y. Monsada has shared to global energy stakeholders during the IHS-CERA Week in this energy-rich state.
The “30-30-30 rule” refers to the share of technologies in the propounded energy mix for the Philippines – ideally, to be distributed evenly to coal, renewable energy, and gas resources plus other technologies.
Vietnam, for its part, noted that it will already firm up its “nuclear ambition” around 2018 with targeted commercial operation around 2021 to 2023. Manifestly, for many power markets in the world, “nuclear renaissance” is not dead even after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
For the Philippines though, the planning and investment horizon for it could be a little longer – as nuclear is already set as an “option technology” further into the future – or within the planning period stretching to year 2030.
“Some of the technologies we are exploring is modular nuclear power facility, but I understand it is not commercially viable yet, but we are open to the nuclear option and to building capacity,” Monsada stressed.
The biggest challenge for the Philippines later on will be rebalancing its power mix, with many of the power plant developments now leaning on coal technologies. As far as nuclear is concerned, Monsada said one of the biggest puzzles is whether or not there would still be a chance for the idled Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) to be brought back into operation.
“That plant that has been inspected again by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and by Korea looking at the possibility of operating it again, it can be operated but there has to be rehabilitation and it would take 2 to 4 years,” the energy secretary said.
Notably, based on the experience of other countries, the gestation period for nuclear power development could take 10 to 25 years – from site selection to managing public dissent up to actual project construction.
For markets that are roughly starting from scratch again like the Philippines, it will need to prepare and develop the skills and knowledge of its workforce; as well as craft the policy and regulation frameworks for such technology deployment.
As emphasized, expertise in the operation of nuclear power facilities would be a key domain that must be given attention because mere ‘human error’ could trigger detrimental level of radiation leaks.
And following the Fukushima tragedy of 2011, energy markets have also grown wary of the needed technology improvements so nuclear facilities could withstand risks of extreme natural disasters.