MANILA – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday he will fully support the plan of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to explore the country’s potentials on nuclear energy as a cheap and reliable source.
Marcos said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday that if the country wants to attract investors, both local and foreign, energy-level production must be increased.
"Why not? We are one of the few countries that have not looked at the nuclear option in Southeast Asia. The countries that are developing nuclear power in Asia -- Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, even Singapore, are looking at the nuclear option, smaller nuclear power plants, and even Myanmar. We're already left behind," Zubiri said in an interview with a news channel.
Despite being a renewable energy advocate, as evidenced by the Renewable Energy Act which he authored, Zubiri admitted that there are not enough efforts to produce the energy requirement the country needs over the next six years.
"If you want to have an 8-percent GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate, we better have an energy sector that is robust, that can deliver the power the different industries need to be able to power other programs and projects," he said.
A nuclear power plant, Zubiri said, might take six years to develop starting from its infancy, but can deliver thousands of megawatts from a single plant.
He said the facility must be built right, strong enough to withstand calamities, and away from earthquake faults.
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, a known environmentalist, said she is open to exploring the possibility of nuclear energy but it must be considered "clean energy".
"I may not be an expert in nuclear energy. I am open to hearing discussions and consultations with various stakeholders and experts in science on nuclear energy. I have read that nuclear energy is said to be clean. However, what about the nuclear waste? I am interested to know how it will be handled. At the same time, the safety measures," she said.
Senator Francis Tolentino is likewise in favor of nuclear energy, which he learned has zero emission.
"President Marcos’ notion is that nuclear energy will provide greater means of support in uplifting the lives of our countrymen," he said.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, asked the Department of Energy (DOE) to brief legislators on whether nuclear energy must be injected in the country’s energy mix, especially in light of climate change.
“We should request the Department of Energy to brief us, because that is a large sum of money to study the possibility, the risk, and the opportunities, the benefits to consumers and we have not seen the report of that study. To support the scientific-based approach, that study should be scientific and should be in the hands of the legislators because that would be a guiding document for us,” Gatchalian said, referring to the million-peso budget spent for studies.
In his SONA, Marcos said he believes it is time to reexamine the country's strategy toward building nuclear power plants.
He said it should be compliant with the regulations of the International Atomic Agency Regulations for Nuclear Power Plants which has been strengthened after the Fukushima Daiichi incident in Japan in 2011.
Following a major earthquake, a 15-meter tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three reactors.
According to the World Nuclear Association, there have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident but over 100,000 people were evacuated as a preventative measure.
Official figures showed 2,313 disaster-related deaths among evacuees, in addition to the about 19,500 that were killed by the earthquake or tsunami. (PNA)