Government considers nuclear plant on terror group’s island stronghold

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The mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant

The Philippine government is considering the possible establishment of a nuclear energy plant in the troubled island province of Sulu.

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said the province had expressed an interest in hosting a ‘modular nuclear power plant’ to provide an alternative source of energy.

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It has recently been confirmed that a Marcos-era nuclear energy plant built — but never fired up — in Bataan will be mothballed.

Speaking at a palace press briefing today (Thursday, May 31), Mr Fuentebella  said: “The policy of nuclear energy should be open because if Luzon does not like it, other islands may be open to it.”

When asked which provinces had expressed an interest, he replied: “Yes, Sulu. It’s small. They are looking at a modular facility.” 

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However, he did admit that the prospect of a Sulu plant was a long way off, since the draft national policy on nuclear energy had not yet been approved.

Sulu is the base of several Islamist terror organisations, including Abu Sayyaf. It would comprise part of the Bangsamoro autonomous region if proposals recently passed by lawmakers clear the Senate in the coming days.

The draft recommendation on whether nuclear energy will be an option for country was submitted by the Department of Energy to the Office of the President last month. 

It also sought answers as to whether the Bataan plant could ever be used in the future. 

In April, the president said he wanted to ensure that adequate security measures were in place before considering a nuclear energy programme in the country.

“Let us listen first before we cock and load our guns there. Let’s see how safe. Number one is safety,” he said. “If it falls down to it, one to six, the safety is only about three and four, forget it. I want eight to nine,” he said.

Despite continuing uncertainty over a nuclear future for the Philippines, Korea Electric Power has said it would be interested in developing a plant in the country.

“KEPCO group has interest in developing nuclear power in the Philippines,” KEPCO Philippines senior commercial manager Kang Jeong Go told GMA News.

“In case the Philippines enters the nuclear market, our subsidiary Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. will be in charge when it comes to developing nuclear power plant in the Philippines,” he added.

Back in 2009, KEPCO also conducted a feasibility study into the revival of the Bataan plant. It concluded that such a scheme would cost upwards of $1 billion.

“At that time we suggested that instead of rehab to construct a new power plant because it is a more than 20-year-old asset,” Kang said.

“It is more efficient to construct a new nuclear power plant, in case the Philippines enters nuclear energy.” 

KEPCO Philippines has been operating power plants in the Philippines for the past two decades.

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