In a historic move, the United States and the Philippines have inked a groundbreaking agreement that opens the door for Washington to export nuclear technology and materials to Manila. This landmark deal signifies the Philippines' exploration of nuclear power as a means to decarbonize its energy sector and enhance energy independence.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the agreement during a signing ceremony held on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco. Blinken stated, "The United States will be able to share equipment and materials with the Philippines as they work to develop small modular reactors and other civilian nuclear energy infrastructure." President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, in his speech, expressed his vision of nuclear energy becoming a key component of the Philippines' energy mix by 2032 and emphasized the importance of the Philippines-U.S. alliance and partnership in achieving this goal.
The deal, however, requires approval from the U.S. Congress. Once approved, it will facilitate the peaceful transfer of nuclear material, equipment, and information, all in compliance with non-proliferation requirements.
As of the end of 2022, the United States had established 23 agreements covering 47 countries, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Taiwan, all geared towards promoting the responsible use of nuclear technology.
The Philippines is actively exploring nuclear power as a viable alternative for baseload electricity generation. This move aligns with the country's commitment to retiring coal-fired power plants, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and achieving its climate goals. Additionally, nuclear power is seen as a means to enhance energy security in a nation vulnerable to fluctuating global oil prices, seasonal power shortages, and high electricity costs.
Previous attempts to harness nuclear energy in the Philippines faced obstacles due to safety concerns. However, President Marcos has raised the possibility of reactivating the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which was constructed in response to an energy crisis during the tenure of his father, the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos. Completed in 1984, the plant was decommissioned just two years later, following the elder Marcos's removal from power, the tragic Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and allegations of corruption.
The agreement between the United States and the Philippines represents a significant step toward the development of the Philippines' nuclear energy sector, potentially ushering in a new era of energy diversification and sustainability for the Southeast Asian nation.