Philippines, Other ASEAN Countries Eye Nuclear Power for Energy Needs

Preparations for the Philippines’ 38th Atomic Energy Week are underway and the country buzzes with sentiments on both sides of the nuclear debate. The country is facing a severe power crisis leaving businesses and homes with no recourse but to suffer the power rationing and scheduled blackouts, which the country had fought and fixed in 1997, whilst a finished, fully paid and (at the time it was finished) top-of-the-line nuclear reactor sits idle all this while costing taxpayers over US$ 800,000 per year in maintenance costs. And the country is not alone in the neighborhood: other growing and therefore, energy-hungry ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and technology-rich Singapore have all laid hold of policies and technologies expected to save the region massive amounts in power generation costs and insulate electricity consumers from price swings in the global oil and gas markets.

Developments are underway. Mauro L. Marcelo Jr., Head of the NPC Nuclear Energy Core Group says, “With the Department of Energy’s declaration that nuclear energy is among the long-term energy option, it will not be too far when the government would declare the positive nuclear policy of the country. The Nuclear Power Forum, the first ever to be held in the islands, will pave the way for all stakeholders to meet and discuss their own needs and requirements aimed at jumpstarting the nuclear power programme of the Philippines.”

Nuclear power is an important option for ASEAN, whose electricity demand is estimated by the International Energy Association (IEA) to increase 76 percent between 2007 and 2030 at an average annual rate of 3.3 percent growth, compared to an estimated 2.5 percent annual growth in demand in the rest of the world over the same period. Meeting the ASEAN countries’ electricity demand will require investing more than $1.1 trillion in the next 25 years.

Construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant began in 1976 in response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, has been completed in 1984 for a total bill of US$2.3 billion, and already fully paid by the government by 2007. In that year, for the first time ever the national government firmly placed nuclear energy as a viable power generation source to include in the country’s Philippine Energy Plan.

Though it was initially projected to require until 2025 before the BNPP could be operated again, a recent study by a Korean supplier of nuclear reactor technology has concluded that the plant could be up and running in 5 years-time (by 2015) and several local government officials have offered areas in other provinces to host more reactors that can provide them with cheaper and more reliable electricity.

At present, electricity in the Philippines is the third most expensive in all of Asia, according to studies by University of the Philippines engineering professor Rowaldo del Mundo, with power in Iloilo City the most expensive in the whole world according to the Freedom from Debt Coalition, costing consumers PHP 12.95 per kilowatt-hour. This means that an average refrigerator alone, consuming about 1100 kWh per year, costs a household about PHP 1,187 per month in electricity bills, not yet counting the family’s other electrical appliances.

The Philippine demand for electricity is expected to grow. The Philippine goal, set out in the 2009-2030 Philippine Energy Plan, is to almost double energy output over the next decade to cope with a looming power shortage. To do so will also require construction of a nuclear power plant, with 2,000 megawatts of electricity. Foreign investors and technology providers have indicated the time is ripe for major infrastructure development, which has been building up for many years now. Fortunately for some Asian companies, they have gained an early lead, leaving behind European providers seeking new pastures to market their technologies.

House Bill 4631, mandating the revival of the Philippine nuclear power portfolio, has been filed and is now under discussion in congress. Major business interests in the country, including one of Southeast Asia’s largest companies, are already making investments into positioning for a share in the portfolio, which could include operating the BNPP as well as building new reactors for nuclear power generation in other parts of the country.

In conjunction with the national celebrations of the 38th Atomic Energy Week, the Center for Energy Sustainability and Economics is convening the Nuclear Power Forum Philippines to be the only government-to-business forum on the issue, featuring case studies from across Asia-Pacific on sustainable development of nuclear technology for peaceful energy use.

The meeting, which includes CEOs and directors from major international and local industry players, seeks to address current opportunities and challenges in nuclear power development in the country and in Asia, with a full-day power forum followed by a site tour where the attending executives and government officials can go offsite to explore the country’s nuclear plant and cement partnerships and contracts to move forward effectively, safely and securely. The Center for Energy Sustainability and Economics is an industry research centre (IRC) that works to bring top executives together in communities of learning and practice to act as a catalyst for generating high-value energy business insight and channel top expertise to where the world needs it most.

Contact: Mr Rex Ian Sayson
Phone (+65) 6844 2080

Leave a Reply