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US, Philippines ink landmark deal on nuclear cooperation

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REUTERS

The United States and the Philippines on Friday signed a landmark deal that would allow Washington to export nuclear technology and material to Manila, which is exploring nuclear power in its bid to decarbonize and boost energy independence.

Philippines President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. witnessed the signing between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Philippines’ Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla.

“The United States will be able to share equipment and material with the Philippines as they work to develop small modular reactors and other civilian nuclear energy infrastructure,” Mr. Blinken said.

Negotiations for the 123 Agreement started in November 2022.

“We see nuclear energy becoming a part of the Philippines’ energy mix by 2032 and we are more than happy to pursue this path with the United States,” Mr. Marcos said in a speech. “Nuclear energy is one area where we can show the Philippines-U.S. alliance and partnership truly works.”

US Congress approval is needed for the deal, which will allow a peaceful transfer of nuclear material, equipment and information in adherence with non-proliferation requirements.

As of end-2022, the United States had 23 agreements covering 47 countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and democratically governed Taiwan.

The Philippines wants to tap nuclear power as a viable alternative baseload power source as it seeks to retire coal plants to help meet climate goals and boost energy security. The Southeast Asian nation is vulnerable to volatile global oil prices, seasonal power outages, and high electricity rates.

Previous attempts to pursue nuclear energy in the Philippines were halted over safety concerns, but Mr. Marcos has discussed the possibility of reviving a mothballed nuclear power plant, built in response to an energy crisis during the rule of the late Philippines strongman and his namesake father.

Completed in 1984, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was mothballed two years later following the ouster of the older Marcos, the deadly Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and corruption allegations. — Reuters

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