PH-Korea deal looms on Bataan nuclear plant feasibility study

By Kris Crismundo

December 17, 2023, 5:02 pm

<p><em>(PNA file image)</em></p>

(PNA file image)

MANILA – The Department of Energy (DOE) is mulling a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (KHNP) that will pave the way for the conduct of a feasibility study on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

DOE Undersecretary Sharon Garin told the Philippine News Agency in a chance interview on Thursday that KHNP has invited a Philippine delegation to do a study tour in South Korea by the end of January next year and sign the feasibility study on the Philippines’ mothballed nuclear asset.

Garin clarified that the MOU does not mean that the Philippine government is obliged to award the project to a Korean company.

“Their offer is they will do the feasibility study. If it’s possible to restart it (BNPP) without any commitment on the part of the government who will undertake the project,” Garin said.

“It’s purely advantageous for us. For debate's sake, just to end the debate whether it’s possible for us [to revive the BNPP] or not. If not, then fine.  And if it’s possible, we are not obliged to award it to a Korean company,” she added.

The KHNP Overseas Business Development Department will shoulder all expenses for the BNPP feasibility study, including possible training programs for Filipino professionals.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. had earlier considered the use of nuclear energy and the possible revival of the BNPP to address the power problems.

Completed in 1984, the USD2-billion BNPP in Morong, Bataan, was supposed to produce 621 megawatts of electricity but was never activated because of safety and other issues.

In 2022, former president Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order establishing the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee to look into the possibility of including nuclear in the country’s energy mix, as it seeks sources of affordable and clean power.

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that will facilitate the collaboration between the two countries on technical exchanges, scientific research, and initiatives to ensure the safe operation of nuclear power installations.

The signing happened during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in San Francisco, California in November. (PNA)