US, Philippines Sign Agreement on Strategic Civil Nuclear Cooperation
22:38 GMT 10.03.2022 (Updated: 13:28 GMT 06.08.2022)
The US State Department announced on Thursday the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Strategic Civil Nuclear Cooperation. The deal will see Washington help Manila restart its nuclear power program.
“The United States and the Philippines have an enduring alliance and maintain long-standing cooperation in the fields of security, energy, commerce, and nonproliferation,” the State Department statement reads. “Deepening our cooperation in nuclear energy, science and technology has the potential to make a significant contribution to our shared clean energy goals, agricultural development, availability of clean water, medical treatments, and more. Our nuclear cooperation rests on a strong nonproliferation regime and the Philippines’ steadfast commitment to nonproliferation.”
The MOU was signed by US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins and Philippine Undersecretary of Energy Gerardo Erguiza, Jr.
Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order reviving the country’s mothballed nuclear power program in order to help the country phase out older coal-fired plants. In the lead-up to US President Joe Biden’s “climate summit” last April, Manila pledged to curb its greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030.
"Adopting a nuclear programme is not just about constructing nuclear power plants,” Erguiza said in a statement at the time, according to the Philippine News Agency. “It is a matter of energy and national security. Should it be decided in the future that the Philippines is fit and finally ready to embark on its nuclear energy journey then, we would be able to look back and appreciate this landmark issuance."
Part of that plan calls for reviving the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, a 620-megawatt pressurized light water reactor built by the US nuclear power company Westinghouse in 1976 for the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos. However, as the plant neared completion, the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Soviet Union caused Manila to get cold feet about nuclear power, and the building has sat dormant ever since having never been fueled or turned on.
Other safety concerns also arose, such as potential impacts from an eruption of Mount Pinatubo 35 miles away, which at the time had been dormant for 500 years. However, the volcano erupted just six years later in June 1991 in what became the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.
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