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Nuclear accord signed between USA and Philippines

The USA and the Philippines have signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement – known as a 123 Agreement – that will allow the transfer of nuclear energy-related materials and components between the two countries.

Formal cooperation agreements are required between countries that want to trade nuclear power goods and services, and those involving the USA are called 123 Agreements after the paragraph of the country’s 1954 Atomic Energy Act which requires them.

The agreement was signed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Philippine Department of Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla on the sidelines of the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in San Francisco. The signing was witnessed by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.

Negotiations on the 123 Agreement were launched in November 2022 during a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris to the Philippines.

The agreement lays out a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the Philippines and the USA based on a mutual commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and is required by US law to allow for the transfer of nuclear equipment and material for peaceful uses, the US Department of State noted. With access to US material and equipment, the USA and the Philippines will be able to work together to deploy advanced new technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs) within the Philippines.

It added that the agreement also establishes non-proliferation criteria that both governments must uphold such as observing specific standards for covered items used in civil nuclear energy programmes, including International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards; physical protection of covered items; and limitations on enriching, reprocessing, and transferring specific items without the other party’s consent.

“With the Philippines’ leadership, we’re working together to develop a nuclear energy sector in their country to fuel a reliable, secure, and affordable clean energy future,” Blinken said at the signing ceremony. “As peak energy demands are expected to nearly quadruple in the Philippines by 2040, nuclear power can consistently produce enough energy to meet communities’ critical needs without emitting more greenhouse gases. In a nation of more than 7000 islands, small modular reactors – some just the size of a city bus – can generate energy locally and conveniently.”

Lotilla added: “Beyond nuclear power applications to combat climate change, the new agreement facilitates bilateral cooperation in a wide array of other peaceful uses of atomic energy, all supportive of various sustainable development goals, including plant breeding, livestock production, insect pest control, soil and crop management, water use efficiency, plastic waste disposal, food safety, health, and medicine.”

In March 2022, then President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order that outlined the government’s position for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the Philippines’ energy mix, taking into account economic, political, social and environmental objectives. President Marcos included new nuclear among his campaign pledges before winning the election in May last year.

“We see nuclear energy becoming a part of the Philippine energy mix by 2032, and we would be more than happy to pursue this path with the United States as one of our partners,” Marcos said at the signing of the 123 Agreement. “The signing of the Philippine-United States agreement for cooperation concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy … is the first major step in this regard, taking our cooperation on capacity building further and actually opening the doors for US companies to invest and participate in nuclear power projects in the country.”

The signing of the agreement came the day after the announcement of a cooperation agreement between the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) – the Philippines’ largest electric distribution utility – and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation of the USA to study the potential deployment of one or more Micro-Modular Reactors in the Philippines.

Source: World Nuclear News