Nuclear Power and Energy

Landmark PH-US civil nuclear deal enters into force

Iya Gozum

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Landmark PH-US civil nuclear deal enters into force

SEALED DEAL. Philippine Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold up the 123 Agreement that they had just signed in San Francisco, California, on November 17, 2023.

The 123 Agreement legally binds the Philippines to United States standards on nuclear nonproliferation

MANILA, Philippines – A landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the Philippines and United States, which will the allow the US to export here nuclear material, equipment, and components entered into force last July 2.

The US State Department announced on its website on Monday, July 8, the start of the enforcement Manila and Washington’s Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy or the 123 Agreement.

The 123 Agreement legally binds the Philippines to US standards on nuclear nonproliferation, which include the observance of International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards and prohibitions on enriching, reprocessing of facilities and transfer of materials without US consent.

The term 123 Agreement is derived from “Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act (which) generally requires the conclusion of a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement for significant transfers of nuclear material or equipment from the United States.” The US Energy Department website says: “As of December 6, 2022, the United States has 23 such agreements in force that govern peaceful nuclear cooperation with 47 countries.”

US Department of State announcement Tuesday said the issue of energy security requires “deliberate collaborative efforts” between the two countries. The framework will also permit the transfer of information on nuclear science.

“Nuclear energy can help achieve these vital global climate change and energy security targets, and we look forward to exploring new avenues of cooperation with the Philippines in civil nuclear energy and other clean energy initiatives,” the statement read.

Manila and Washington signed their 123 Agreement last November 2023 after a year of negotiations.

This comes as the Philippines follows the global trend of shifting to clean and renewable energy sources from fossil fuels, in compliance with the target of limiting warming to 1.5C.

“A full-fledged nuclear cooperation partnership can lead to political and economic ties lasting as long as 100 years and can be the catalyst for cooperation on other foreign policy issues,” the US Department of State said in a 2022 briefer.

Aside from the nuclear agreement, the Philippines is exploring the feasibility of micro modular nuclear reactors in the country. These could generate 3.5 to 15 megawatts electric, according to US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation.

The pursuit for nuclear energy has drawn criticisms from concerned civil society and environmental organizations.

While nuclear is a source of low-carbon electricity, nuclear fuel like uranium has to be extracted from the ground and is not renewable. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.