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Gov’t support in nuclear plants construction a must — energy advocate

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STOCK PHOTO | Image by Markus Distelrath from Pixabay

THE CONSTRUCTION of nuclear power plants without government support could lead to an uptick in consumer electricity prices, an energy advocate said, noting the high cost of constructing nuclear facilities needed to be recouped by plant operators.

Government intervention is needed to offset the initial costs of establishing a nuclear facility, he said.

“Without government subsidies, the initial high cost of construction could lead to increased electricity prices for consumers,” Nic Satur, Jr., chief advocate officer of Partners for Affordable and Reliable Energy (PARE), told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

“Plant operators will need to ensure they can recover their investment costs, which could place a financial burden on consumers unless offset by government intervention,” he said.

Weaknesses in the power sector resulted in alerts being issued as the country’s electric grid faces thinning power supply as operation margins for electricity output were insufficient in meeting regulating requirements.

Responding to weaknesses in the electricity sector, Mr. Satur urged the government to consider constructing nuclear facilities to augment the country’s power generation capacity.

“(Nuclear energy is) a stable and reliable energy source that does not depend on external market conditions,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

However, nuclear plant developers would need support from the government to offset the initial costs of constructing nuclear facilities, Mr. Satur said. “Nuclear power plants are generally expensive to construct, but they are comparatively inexpensive to operate over the long term.”

The capital cost for building a small modular nuclear reactor ranges between $2,000 and $6,000 per kilowatt it could produce, he said.

Pangasinan Rep. Marcos Juan Bruno O. Cojuangco said he is considering filing a bill incentivizing the construction of nuclear power plants in the country, a measure seen as providing needed support to attract nuclear develop-ers, once Congress resumes next week.

“The ‘nuclear incentives bill,’ which is currently in an advanced stage of drafting and is expected to be filed shortly after our break, seeks to address these concerns,” Mr. Cojuangco, who also chairs the House Special Committee on Nuclear Energy, told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

Subsidies for nuclear plant developments should be discussed with the Board of Investments to determine the amount of support the government would provide based on its corresponding benefit to the power sector.

Mr. Satur urged the government to consider all variables in constructing nuclear plants. “Nuclear is… the future but we need a more concrete roadmap for the Philippines and we need to balance the capital needed, the risks, and the eventual cost of power,” he said. — Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio

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