House committees approve creation of national nuclear regulatory body

The House committee on government reorganization chaired by Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin) and the committee on science and technology chaired by Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol) jointly approved an amended substitute bill seeking to provide a comprehensive nuclear regulatory framework to protect public health and safety

The approval of the unnumbered substitute bill to House Bill Nos. 25, 1691, 2732, 2977, 3651, 4369, 4785 and 4878 authored by Reps. Francis Gerald Abaya (1st District, Cavite), Maximo Rodriguez Jr. (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), Gary Alejano (Party-list, MAGDALO), Divina Grace Yu (1st District, Zamboanga del Sur), Aumentado and Seth Frederick Jalosjos (1st District, Zamboanga del Norte), Joey Sarte Salceda (2nd District, Albay), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga) and Ron Salo (Party-list, KABAYAN), respectively, came days after the Philippines and Russia signed an agreement to develop nuclear energy.

During the joint hearing, Romualdo said the initiative to pass a law creating an independent and effective nuclear regulatory body on the peaceful uses and application of nuclear energy started in the 15th Congress.

This is a clear indication of the necessity to create a regulatory government entity for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he said.

Romualdo said the Philippines is a signatory to many applicable international conventions and treaties and it is imperative for it to establish an independent and effective regulatory body to comply with its obligations under these treaties and conventions.

In the 2004 Radiation Safety Infrastructure Appraisal mission report, one of the recommendations was the creation of a single and independent nuclear regulatory body for the control of ionizing radiation from radioactive sources and electrical devices for the Philippines to comply with international standards and best practices, he said.

Rep. Jesse Allen Mangaoang (Lone District, Kalinga), acting chairman of the science and technology committee, said the proposal is a vital piece of legislation as the country embarks on a renewed effort to strengthen science and technology and boost industrial growth.

The time has come for us to provide a comprehensive nuclear regulatory framework. It aims to harness the peaceful uses of nuclear energy that will benefit various fields such as health and medicine, energy production, science, research, agriculture industry and education, Mangaoang said.

The bill calls for the creation of the the Philippine Nuclear Regulatory Commission (PNRC) which shall exercise authority over all aspects of safety, security and safeguards involving nuclear, materials and other radioactive materials, facilities and radiation generating equipment.

In issuing authorizations and other regulations under the Act, the PNRC shall impose the minimum requirements to protect the health and safety of the public and the environment and ensure the security of ionizing radiation sources.

It shall prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and prevent nuclear or radiological terrorism consistent with the obligations of the Philippines under relevant international standards and best practices.

The PNRC shall ensure that operators are technically and financially qualified to engage in the proposed activities in accordance with the requirements of the Act and the PNRC's regulations and has financial protection to fulfill obligations on liability for nuclear and radiation damage.

Among the functions of the PNRC are: 1) Define, formulate, develop and issue policies, regulations, standards, and other issuances necessary for the implementation of this Act and its implementing rules and regulations consistent with international agreements, standards and best practices; 2) Issue, amend, and revoke rules, regulations and orders pertaining to the financial capability of operators to cover liability for nuclear damage; 3) Establish and implement a system of authorization in the form of notification, registration, and licensing, including modifications, amendments, suspension, and revocation of such authorizations; and 4) Review and assess submissions on safety assessment and security plans form the facility operators prior to authorization and periodically thereafter, as required.

It shall also: Inspect, monitor, and assess activities and practices to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and the terms and conditions for authorizations; Define exemptions and exclusions from regulatory control; Establish and maintain a national register of radiation sources; and Ensure the application of safety, safeguard and security requirements consistent with national and international commitments.

According to Dr. Carlo Arcilla of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, one of the problems of the Philippines is that it is running out of natural gas in five years and the country is importing a lot of fuel.

One can understand why the imperative for nuclear power is being considered, he said.

Source: House of Representatives

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