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ABAC tackles Nuclear Energy’s Viability for Sustainable Growth in the APEC Region

On Friday, June 30, ABAC Philippines and ABAC Canada held a virtual roundtable titled “Powering the Future: Exploring Nuclear Energy and Emerging Technologies in APEC,” sparking exciting discussions on the viability of nuclear energy in driving a sustainable future and addressing the urgent need for decarbonization to combat climate change issues.

Industry leaders, field experts, and policymakers headlined the roundtable, providing invaluable insights and engaging in profound conversations about the potential of nuclear energy and emerging technologies in fostering sustainable growth across the 21 economies that encompass the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region.

Last April, during the second leg of the ABAC meetings, the Sustainable Growth Working Group received support and endorsement in exploring the viability of nuclear energy through small modular reactors (SMRs) and emerging technologies as zero-carbon energy sources. These initiatives demonstrate ABAC’s commitment to addressing the challenges of climate change and sustainable development. The “Power the Future” roundtable discussion is a demonstration of the knowledge exchange and cross-border collaboration that ABAC is dedicated to bringing about.

Aboitiz Group President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sabin Aboitiz opened the discussion, highlighting the role of nuclear energy in the “Energy Transformation” of the 21st century. As a member of ABAC Philippines and as the Vice Chair of the ABAC Sustainable Growth Working Group, Aboitiz is fostering dialogue among industry leaders, enabling them to counsel on policy issues that profoundly influence the economic progress of the region.

“We are transitioning from an era powered primarily by fossil fuels to one powered by diverse, cleaner, and more sustainable sources of energy. But to achieve this transition successfully, we need to ensure that it is marked by two essential principles – equity and security,” said Aboitiz.

“The role of nuclear energy will be pivotal in this journey. It calls for shared learning, private-public partnerships, and an imaginative exploration of new technologies and what they can do. Let us seize this opportunity, and together, shape an energy landscape in the APEC region marked by equity, security, and sustainability,” he concluded.

The keynote message was delivered by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla, who provided comprehensive insights on the Philippines’ re-examination of nuclear energy. Sec. Lotilla emphasized that the DOE is working with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on the enabling policy framework for the private sector participation in the nuclear power space..

“On the part of the Philippines, our Department of Energy is committed to work towards a sustainable future through a technology agnostic approach to clean alternative energy sources in order to provide greater energy security, stability, reliability, and affordability for the country. This involves diversification of our energy sources to include nuclear power,” shared Sec. Lotilla.

“As we ramp up our Philippine renewable energy target of 50 percent of the power mix by 2040, we seek complementarities with nuclear power. This regional sharing therefore of best experiences and practice as well as challenges and expectations among both developed and developing countries is indeed a welcome conversation,” he continued.

Toronto Region Board of Trade President and CEO and ABAC Canada member Jan De Silva stressed the urgency of decarbonization and enhancing energy security in her message. She emphasized that the critical strength of ABAC is its network effect, where experts from the various economies can come together to share insights and experiences.

“While Canada is known for natural resources, our largest province, Ontario, has been at the forefront of decarbonizing our energy supply. In 2007, we became the first North American jurisdiction to phase out coal-fired energy. Today, 92 percent of our electricity is produced from zero-carbon sources, of which nuclear represents almost 60 percent,” said De Silva.

“This roundtable is a starting point for us to learn from each other, share best practices, and chart a path forward towards a multi-year ABAC-APEC work program on nuclear energy that will result in actual recommendations to economic leaders,” she added.

Following the messages were dialogues with subject matter and policy experts from various APEC economies, providing a comprehensive discussion that touched on insights and views from around the world.

The first session focused on the role of public-private partnerships for nuclear enabling policy environments and achieving energy security in different economies. The panelists include AboitizPower President and CEO Emmanuel V. Rubio, Indonesia National Research and Innovation Agency’s Research Organization on Nuclear Energy Main Expert Researcher Prof. Dr. Ir. Anhar Riza Antariksawan, 2nd District Pangasinan Congressman and Special Committee on Nuclear Energy Chairperson Mark Cojuangco, Kyoto University Institute for Integrated Radiation and Nuclear Science Professor Emeritus Dr. Ken Nakajima, and Ontario Ministry of Energy Chief of Staff David Donovan.

“It [nuclear] will be a natural portion of the energy mix in the future. I am quite pleased that there is a bill that is looking to be passed addressing a number of the concerns that the private sector has, particularly in permitting and regulations governing use and operations of nuclear technology,” shared Rubio.

Also part of the panel was House Special Committee on Nuclear Energy Chair Rep. Mark Cojuangco, who has long been a proponent of nuclear energy. He confirms that they just need  a few more session days to pass, through Congress, the bill creating PhilATOM or the Philippine Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority.

“It’s time we be serious about nuclear as the destination technology, to lower our importation requirements and to have clean energy that is not only clean but also reliable and the cheapest combination of all of the above,” said Rep. Cojuangco. 

The second session delved into new technology and use cases for nuclear energy and small modular reactors (SMRs) in response to growing interest and demand. The subject was expertly dealt with by panelists CANDU Energy Senior Vice President of Major Projects Julianne den Decker and the Russian Federation’s ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation Head of Department Svyatoslav V. Pikh.

The discussions were facilitated by Upgrade Energy Philippines President  Vice  Ruth Yu-Owen.

The leadership, expertise, and experience shared across the sessions is just the beginning of ABAC’s exploration on nuclear energy and new technologies towards a sustainable future. In July, ABAC will hold its third leg in Cebu, Philippines, where 200 delegates from the 21 APEC economies will convene to further discuss challenges and opportunities for inclusive growth and sustainable practices in the region.

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