The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) said Palawan would be a suitable location for a modular small nuclear reactor, which might bring an end to the power outages it is experiencing.

During the Laging Handa program on Monday, May 8, PNRI Director Carlo Arcilla suggested that installing a nuclear plant in Palawan would be beneficial, especially in areas where electricity is scarce, such as tourist destinations like El Nido and the underground river at night.

“Nakausap ko si dating gobernador ng Palawan, si Governor [Jose] Alvarez, na ngayon ay congressman na, at interesado siya kasi ang Palawan, tingnan niyo ha, ang Palawan most beautiful island in the world, pero ang hina ng kuryente. Pumunta ka doon sa El Nido, pumunta ka doon sa underground river, halos walang kuryente sa gabi. Papaano kang manghahatak ng turista?” Arcilla said.

Arcilla stated this as he explained the need to reactivate the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and install more small nuclear reactors (SNR) in offgrid areas due to the country’s precarious energy situation.

He said that the province, Occidental Mindoro, and Catanduanes, which have electricity problems, are ideal locations for SNRs, which could back up conventional and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, and could be situated in areas that are not connected to the main power grids.

“Magandang mai-offer sa atin small modular reactor. Ang ating energy situation ay medyo delikado, kasi 50% ng ating energy galing sa coal. Tapos yang coal na yan, 90% imported galing sa Indonesia. Hawak tayo sa leeg ng Indonesia. Last year, sabi ng Indonesia, ayaw na naming magbenta ng coal kasi mahal na siya. Nakiusap tayo na wag naman kasi magkakaroon ng brownout sa Pilipinas,” he said.

Arcilla further explained that 20% of the country’s power supply comes from Malampaya, which is also depleting. This means that 70% of its energy sources are uncertain. While the Philippines has geothermal energy, it is already at its maximum capacity. Thus, the country has no other option but to use coal and natural gas as a backup to renewable energy sources, which are only available for 30% of the time.

The size of the reactors being offered to the government, he added, is about two container vans and can produce about 70 megawatts of electricity. Once the reactor is delivered to the island, it is a plug-and-play operation, making it easy to install.

Their safety features are noteworthy because they eliminate the need for an operator in the event of any malfunction. They can leave, and the nuclear power plant will close down automatically.

Electricity is also expensive in the Philippines, with residents spending 10% to 15% of their income on it, compared to 1% in other countries.

“Napaka importante na magkaroon na ng nuclear power plant, dahil delikado na. Magkakaroon tayo ng mga brownouts,” he stressed.

He also emphasized the need to pass laws amending the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) because the government owns the Bataan nuclear power, which cannot sell electricity to the grid without provisions for liability and safety guarantees.

The PNRI, he said, should also be independent and separated from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).