|Fig. 1: The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Nuclear energy in the Philippines has long been a contentious and controversial issue. The country's nuclear program started in 1958 with the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission, a government agency responsible for developing and researching peaceful uses for nuclear energy. Under the Marcos administration in 1976, construction started on the 600 MW Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, shown in Fig. 1, the first such nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia.  However, the project was mired by numerous setbacks as public sentiment in the country rallied against the plant's operation. In 1986, with the plant nearly ready for operation, the Chernobyl incident prompted the government to indefinitely mothball the project.  Since the overthrow of Marcos and the return of democracy, there have been a series of unsuccessful attempts to revitalize the nuclear energy program.
Since 2010, the Philippines GDP has grown by an average of 6.3%, among the fastest in Southeast Asia. Despite this, the country suffers from some of the highest electricity prices in the region.  This is partly due to the Philippines being a 7000-island archipelago, that makes transmission difficult and costly. To sustain the robust recent economic growth, the government has made it a priority to further provide safe and affordable power. In line with this initiative, the government is beginning to seriously consider nuclear energy as a major component of its long-term energy plans. Energy Secretary, Alfonso Cusi has pointed out that nuclear power may be a viable solution to the country's growing power needs "with annual electricity demand expected to rise by an average 5 percent until 2030".  Furthermore, nuclear power may help the Philippines in its transition to renewable energy sources, as the price of nuclear energy generation remains the cheapest worldwide.  The Philippines recently signed an agreement with the Russian State Atomic Energy Corp. to develop the country's nuclear infrastructure and personnel training and to flesh out methods of rallying public support for nuclear technology. 
Despite the need for additional sources of energy in the Philippines, there remain many reasons why nuclear energy may not be adopted anytime in the near-term future. Firstly, in light of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, there are concerns that earthquakes or tsunamis in the seismically active island country may compromise the security of future nuclear plants. Furthermore, public backlash against a nuclear program would have to be addressed. The fact remains that nuclear power remains an unpopular option in the country, despite the perceived economic advantages, in part due to opposition from the widely influential Catholic Church. 
As of now, the nuclear energy program in the Philippines remains in its infancy. The country has taken some important preliminary steps in establishing a viable nuclear energy sector, however it is important for adequate legislative measures to first take place.  Investment in nuclear energy assets are long-term and therefore require robust safety and security protocols as well as procedures to deal with nuclear waste. Furthermore, it is important to keep developments in the country's nuclear energy program transparent and open to discussion to avoid the wastage of public funds as was the case with the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. 
© Paco Litonjua. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
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