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Southeast Asian country dealing with precarious supply and high electricity costs The mothballed Bataan nuclear power station north of Manila. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. The Philippines has taken a step towards introducing nuclear power, its energy minister said on Wednesday, after president Rodrigo Duterte created an inter-agency committee to study the adoption of a national nuclear energy policy.

In a July 24 executive order made public on Wednesday, Mr Duterte created a committee to conduct the study, indicating openness to reviving the country’s nuclear energy ambitions.

As power demand soars in what has for years been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, energy minister Alfonso Cusi has been advocating the use of nuclear power.

Nuclear is seen as a potential answer to the Philippines’ twin problems of precarious supply and Southeast Asia’s highest electricity costs.

Local press reports said, however, that Mr Duterte has yet to express full support for Mr Cusi's proposal.

Mr Cusi welcomed Mr Duterte’s decision as “a major step towards the realisation of a Philippine nuclear energy programme” that would “help shield our consumers from traditional power price volatilities”.

The committee will assess the feasibility of adding nuclear to the Philippines' power mix, taking into account economic, security and environmental implications.

The Philippines has a nuclear station at Bataan, north of the capital Manila, but it has never operated and has been mothballed.

Construction of the single Westinghouse pressurised water reactor unit, the only nuclear energy facility in Southeast Asia, began in the late 1970s under former president Ferdinand Marcos’ regime. Work was stopped due to issues regarding corruption and safety, compounded by concerns following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The Philippines has been in talks with Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom about a feasibility study for deploying small modular reactors in remote areas.

Date: Thursday, 30 July 2020
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