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Singapore, Philippines see nuclear as solution

By PRIME SARMIENTO in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-09-05 09:19

Singapore and the Philippines are keen to develop nuclear energy in line with their plans to decarbonize their economies.

Apart from their climate commitments, the two are boosting their renewable energy resources to promote energy security.

A report commissioned by Singapore's Energy Market Authority said geothermal energy or nuclear energy can supply about 10 percent of the city-state's energy needs by 2050.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said in a State of the Nation Address that it is time for the country to "reexamine our strategy" on building nuclear power plants.

Analysts said advances in nuclear technology in recent years will avert nuclear disasters like those that happened at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986 and Fukushima, Japan, in 2011.

"If Singapore can identify a technology that is sufficiently safe, nuclear power could provide a small percentage of the country's low-carbon electricity," said Philip Andrews-Speed, senior principal fellow at the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore.

Using nuclear energy can address both "low-carbon and security of supply challenges", he said.

Kavickumar Muruganathan, a teaching faculty member at the university, said that while large nuclear plant plants will be unsuitable given Singapore's land scarcity and highly urbanized terrain, small modular reactors can help the country produce nuclear energy.

A small modular reactor can generate about 300 megawatts of electricity that can power 50,000 homes a year, he said. Its size means it can be located closer to residential areas or inserted within pockets of spaces in industrial areas. Such reactors can also be designed and built faster for commercial scalability.

Research on nuclear technology and safety has advanced significantly in recent years, Muruganathan said.

"Mechanisms must be in place to detect any leakage into the wider environment, and there should be guidelines to collect, transport and dispose of radioactive waste material in a safe manner."

Apart from nuclear energy, Singapore can also develop geothermal energy, said Alessandro Romanogli, associate professor at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

"The key advantage of geothermal energy over other renewables is its availability almost all year round."

Studies of Singapore's geothermal potential are continuing, but "an initial theoretical estimate indicates that the potential could cover a sizable portion of Singapore's energy mix", he said.

Marcos said plans to develop nuclear energy in his country will comply with regulations set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Philippines was keen to explore the use of atomic energy when it built the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which was completed in 1984 but was never used owing to safety concerns.

Gerardo Erguiza Jr, undersecretary of the Philippine Department of Energy, said in May that a study of the Korean Hydro Nuclear Power Company of South Korea and Rosatom of Russia showed that it is possible for the Philippines to rehabilitate the Bataan plant.

Alberto Dalusung III, energy transition adviser of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, a think tank in Manila, said there are still several concerns that need to be addressed before the Philippines can restart its plan to use nuclear energy. These include safety and cost concerns and whether nuclear energy is the appropriate renewable energy source for the Philippines.

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