DOE explores ‘Modular nuclear’ option

By MYRNA M. VELASCO, Contributor

THE Philippines is exploring the “modular nuclear” option.

Energy Undersecretary Ramon Allan V. Oca told an audience at the Shell presentation of its “New Lens Scenarios” that “modular nuclear is currently being studied by the energy department.”

Modular nuclear could make use of the smaller-scale installations of 100 megawatts or less compared to the capital-intensive developments which are also of mammoth capacity.

Up to this point though, Oca noted that the technology’s social acceptance “is being weighed on account of the nuclear power-related incidents (like Fukushima)” which triggered the stigma on embracing nuclear as an alternative in meeting a country’s energy needs.

The Philippines’ initial experiment on nuclear power technology was during the Marcos regime via the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Project (BNPP), which at that time commanded an investment of roughly $2 billion.

At 98-percent construction completion and already at commissioning phase, the facility was shelved by the administration of former President Corazon Aquino, justifying its move then that the BNPP was sitting on a fault line.

Recent studies, however, have been trying to disprove that. And despite calls for the BNPP to be repowered, it was already rendered to be a “dead option” by the current administration.

This reigning Aquino leadership, however, is not totally closing its doors on nuclear, but it specified that it will favor greenfield developments vis-a-vis bringing back to operation the idled BNPP facility.

Onward to 2060, Dr. Cho-Oon Kong, Shell’s chief political analyst of the Shell Strategy and Scenarios, has emphasized that nuclear will emerge as a key player again in the energy mix – with the goal of many economies to significantly pare their carbon footprints.

In fact, it can be gleaned in the scenarios presented by the Dutch firm that renewables will likely dominate the energy mix.

The Shell executive portended that “king coal” will be trounced by solar in the next 30 to 40 years. He qualified though that the company has not been giving predictions or forecasts but was just laying down scenarios as to what could happen in the future energy landscape.

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