By Johnny C. Nunez
MANILA (PNA) — Filipinos will likely upgrade their outlook on nuclear concerns shortly. Before its Christmas break, the House of Representatives approved on second reading HB 8733, also known as the “Comprehensive Nuclear Regulation Act,” which seeks to establish a comprehensive nuclear regulatory framework and create the Philippine Nuclear Regulatory Commission (PNRC).
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, the bill’s principal author. said PNRC will be a single, independent nuclear regulatory body focused on the control of peaceful uses and application of nuclear energy, as the country embarks on a renewed effort to strengthen science and technology and boost industrial growth. House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is among the bill’s proponents.
To be attached to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), PNRC will be tasked to harmonize the country’s nuclear regulatory structure with other countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, such as China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and Singapore, among others.
Salceda said the measure aims to harness the peaceful and beneficial uses of nuclear energy in agriculture, health and medicine, energy production, scientific research, industry, and education; recognize the potentially harmful effects of ionizing radiation; protect society and the environment; establish a legal and regulatory framework for the regulation and control of the peaceful uses of nuclear resources; manage radioactive waste; and establish a legal and regulatory framework to prevent, detect, and respond to unauthorized activities involving nuclear materials.
PNRC, as an autonomous regulatory body, shall exercise authority over all aspects of safety, security, and safeguards involving nuclear and other radioactive materials, facilities, and radiation generating equipment. Most importantly, Salceda stressed, PNRC will “ensure consistency with the nation’s obligations under relevant international instruments and modernize the nuclear civil liability and compensation regime in line with internationally-accepted standards.”
HB 8733, he added, also aims to establish and maintain a regulatory system for “the formulation and adoption of rules and guidelines on the use of ionizing radiation that shall specify the principles, requirements, and associated criteria for safety and security upon which the regulatory, judgments, decisions, and actions shall be based.”
Among PNRC’s other functions are to: (a) formulate and issue regulations and policies necessary for the Act’s implementation, (b) issue regulations on financial capability of operators to cover liability for nuclear damage; (c) inspect, assess, and monitor activities to ensure compliance; (d) coordinate with other agencies on health and safety, environmental protection, security, and transportation of nuclear and related dangerous goods; and (e) act as the national authority on nuclear safety, security, and regulatory matters relative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
PNRC shall be headed by a Commissioner, appointed by the President and shall be assisted by four Deputy Commissioners and an Executive Director who will assist them in the discharge of executive, administrative and planning functions of the body. As mandated, it will charge and collect reasonable fees for its regulatory functions which shall be deposited with the Bureau of Treasury as income of the general fund. It will also establish a Nuclear Waste Management Fund and set aside a portion of the payment for the electricity generated from the nuclear energy use which shall only be utilized for the safe disposal of nuclear waste, to include site research, transport, and final geological disposal.
PNRC shall likewise have an Advisory Board chaired by the DOST Secretary, with the Secretary of the Department of Health as vice chair, and the Secretaries of the Departments of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, National Defense, Trade and Industry, and Agriculture as members, as well as some five members from the academe or non-government organizations.
Violators of the Act shall be penalized with imprisonment of at most five years, and/or a fine ranging from P1 million to P5 million. All powers, duties, records, files, and assets pertaining to nuclear and radioactive materials and facilities of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) shall be transferred to PNRC.
In addition, the measure also transfers the regulatory powers of PNRI’s Nuclear Regulatory Division, as well as the Radiation Regulatory Divisions of the Center for Device Regulation, Radiation, Health and Research of the Department of Health to PNRC.