"There is a wide range of issues that we need to explore and thresh out before we can accurately measure the true potential of nuclear technology. Should the Philippines decide to pursue adding nuclear power to the energy mix, a comprehensive legal framework on the use of nuclear power would first need to be crafted to tackle these issues," said Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy.
He said these issues include the structure and powers of the regulatory body; licensing, inspection, and enforcement; radiation protection; sources of radiation and radioactive material; safety of nuclear facilities; emergency preparedness and response; transport of radioactive material; radioactive waste and spent fuel; nuclear liability and coverage; non-proliferation and physical protection; export and import controls; and physical protection, among others.
"All of the gaps in our nuclear energy legal framework would have to be addressed first by passing comprehensive legislation," Gatchalian said.
At present, the Department of Energy is studying the possibility of adding nuclear power to the country's energy mix.
However, the country's only existing nuclear energy body is the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), whose functions center around radiation and nuclear research and development.
Besides coming out with a comprehensive legal framework, Gatchalian pointed out that the Philippines has yet to ratify three key international nuclear conventions - the Convention on Nuclear Safety; the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management; and the amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
"A strong national framework on nuclear power must also be compliant with international standards on safety, security, safeguards, and liability," the senator said.
Gatchalian made the assessment following his participation in a study tour earlier this month to learn firsthand about the latest nuclear technologies of certain European countries.
He was part of the delegation led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos, the chair of the Philippines Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization, and PNRI director Carlo Arcilla.
Among the sites the delegation visited were the International Atomic Energy Agency Office of Legal Affairs and the IAEA Seidersdorf Laborary - both in Vienna, Austria - and the Slovenia Nuclear Safety Administration and the Krsko Nuclear Power Plant in Slovenia.