Nuclear power? PNoy says not now

Rappler.com
President Aquino said the radiation contamination in Japan in 2011 dims the chances of Philippines using nuclear power to address the power shortage in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the power crisis in Mindanao, is it time for the Philippines to use nuclear power?

Think about the radiation contamination in Japan after a power earthquake crippled a nuclear plant in Fukushima in 2011, President Aquino told reporters in a press conference in Malacanang on Monday, April 16.

He said the government “will study” utilizing nuclear energy to address the current power shortage, “but there are other sources that have less potential negative impact available to us” at the moment.

“[We have a] DOST study, [but I want to remind you] when [they] had the Japanese tragedy in Fukushima, the Germans [are] rethinking utilizing nuclear energy. When we look at how meticulous and studious they are in following all of the rules and regulations in the utilization, and we are not as meticulous and studious, we really have to study the matter very, very well.”

“Japan’s technological prowess was very high-proof to address the situation in Fukushima. They’ve been utilizing nuclear energy for quite a long time. Can we say we can do better than them right off the bat?”

Former congressman Mark Cojuangco had proposed during last week’s Energy Summit in Davao the use of small modular reactors, which are supposedly a safer form of nuclear power, to supply electricity in Mindanao. However, several quarters have thumbed down the idea.

The President earlier said that the people of Mindanao have only two options amid the crisis: pay for higher electricity prices or live with the rotating brownouts.

He said new power plants must be built to boost supply in Mindanao. This will entail a hike in energy prices as investors building the plants will seek to recover their costs.

But he assured that once supply swings to surplus, electricity prices will go down because of competition.

“[What we are after] is to make power rates reasonable, and first step has to be an excess of generating capacity that will foster competition. That is already existing in Luzon, we have something like 2,000 megawatts surplus.”

Options

In the press conference, President Aquino reiterated that renewable energy is an option in shoring up power supply in Mindanao.

However, the Department of Energy has yet to find the right energy mix that will assure the country reliable and affordable power.

Gusto rin natin ‘yong renewable pero presently ang pagpapaliwanag sa akin, kunwari solar… mas mataas pa rin ‘di hamak ang presyo ng kuryente galing sa solar. Hindi naman problema ‘yong pasukin natin ‘yong solar, biomass, etc. Solar sigurado akong magkakaroon ng malaking dagdag sa presyo ng kuryente. Willing ba ‘yong consumer bayaran for the clean energy?”

In the meantime, President Aquino said they are keen on privatizing the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric power plants to generate additional capacity in Mindanao. The plan however was met with opposition from some local officials.

Titingnan natin kung gaano ka-reasonable ‘yong sinasabi nila kailangan i-discuss ito.”

“In Luzon, we have privatized a lot of plants and this resulted in increased capacity.”

No to subsidy

The President also ruled out subsidizing power rates in Mindanao.

He said power subsidies will mean less funds for other important sectors like infrastructure and social services. He added these will translate to more debts for government.

Kapag sinubsidize natin ‘yan, san natin kukunin ‘yon? Meron tayong P1.8-trillion budget, we have P400 billion that can be allocated, the rest goes to personal services, maintenance, etc. ‘Yong P400 billion will be the source of the subsidy. That will translate into losses for airport upgrades, irrigation, schools, health service and so on.” – Rappler.com

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