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Science advocacy organization rules out need for new nuclear energy regulator

A SCIENCE advocacy organization has asked legislators to suspend consideration of a bill creating a new agency that will oversee nuclear power, calling instead for the expansion of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute’s (PNRI) powers.

“It may be more prudent and cost-effective to update those mandates and strengthen said institutions (PNRI) by allocating more funding for research and development, and most importantly providing more permanent employee positions and benefits for scientists and researchers,” Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, also known as AGHAM, said in a position paper.

The House nuclear energy committee is currently discussing House Bill No. 7049, which seeks to create the Philippine Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority or PhilATOM to “exercise regulatory control for the peaceful, safe, and secure uses of nuclear energy and radiation sources in the Philippines.”

The bill also calls for controls on radioactive materials and related equipment, which will be managed under the guidance of the International Commission on Radiological Protection subject to the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Authority.

“This bill and all other related bills are unnecessary and that the regulatory functions of PNRI should suffice for the time being,” AGHAM said.

The PNRI is an arm of the Department of Science and Technology. It has a P461-million share of the P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.

AGHAM added that “the promise of nuclear energy as a catalyst for sustainable progress and national industrialization is nothing but fool’s gold,” citing the Philippines’ continued dependence on energy imports, in this case uranium.

It also said that the disposal of nuclear waste would result in a high carbon footprint.

“The safety of communities should be paramount, as well as the serious environmental considerations that need to be addressed when indefinitely storing these wastes,” it said.

The group also called on legislators to focus on measures that will facilitate the use and development of renewable energy. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz

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