Signing of PH-US civil nuke cooperation deal seen on APEC sidelines

By Kris Crismundo

November 15, 2023, 7:28 pm

MANILA – The signing of the 123 Agreement, or the civil nuclear cooperation deal, is part of the agenda of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. during his official trip to the United States for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alfredo Pascual, who is also attending the APEC Summit in San Francisco, California, bared this to trade reporters during an online briefing Wednesday.

“It’s in the program, the signing of the 123 Agreement,” Pascual said.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez also confirmed that the civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries will be signed on the sidelines of the APEC meeting trip of the Chief Executive.

During the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris to the Philippines last year, she announced that Manila and Washington would work on the 123 Agreement, which allows exports of US nuclear technology to the Philippines.

The agreement will allow the Philippines to use US nuclear technology, not for war, but for energy security and climate goals.

The deal establishes a legal framework that only allows the transfer of US-origin special nuclear material as well as the export of nuclear fuel, reactors and equipment for peaceful use.

US firms such as NuScale Power Corp. and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation has earlier expressed their intent to build nuclear energy facilities in the Philippines through small and micro modular reactors.

Aside from US companies, Korean nuclear firms are also looking closely in the development of the 123 Agreement between the Philippines and the US.

The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (KHNP), in particular, has been keen to rehabilitate the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which is a twin structure of the Kori Nuclear Power Site in Busan.

Kori is using the Westinghouse technology, a nuclear technology originated from the US.

An official from Korea Nuclear Association for International Cooperation told the Philippine News Agency through WhatsApp messaging that the signing of the 123 Agreement is important for Korean companies eyeing to revive the BNPP.

“Korea can build nuclear power plant (in the Philippines) by itself now but its technology originated from US,” the official said.

“Since BNPP was built by Westinghouse, the technical description about BNPP must be acquired first from Westinghouse, which will be used to rehabilitate the BNPP. But if 123 (Agreement) is not ready, it would be illegitimate to do so since they will be transmitting US technology to the unauthorized country,” he added.

As of 2022, the US government has 23 civil nuclear agreements with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Taiwan as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). (PNA)