Officials and experts from the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) gave the public the assurance on the availability of several science-based interventions that would properly manage our nuclear waste.
In line with the 2022 National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) celebration, the DOST-PNRI conducted a webinar titled: Safe Ba Tayo? How Effective Radiation Protection and Radioactive Waste Management Ensure Safety of Filipinos on November 25 via Facebook Live and Zoom.
"The truth is nuclear is a perceived and imagined problem with an easy solution. There is funding, there is technology, there is scientific evidence. The only thing that prevents the proper disposal of nuclear waste is public acceptance, said Engr. Ronald Piquero, senior science research specialist from DOST-PNRI.
He said that in our country, we have capabilities, experts, facilities, and protocols if there are concerns or possible leak of radioactive materials.
Radioactive waste pertains to any waste that emits alpha, beta, or gamma radiation and can be found in medical and industrial related operations including the nuclear power plant operation. On the other hand, radioactive waste management pertains to the radioactive waste processing to a form that it can be stored safely and eventually disposed of in a secured disposal facility.
With this, Engr. Piquero shared that the DOST-PNRI maintains and operates a centralized Radioactive Waste Management Facility in the Philippines to ensure proper management of radioactive waste. The said facility is authorized to treat, condition, and store radioactive waste.
Meanwhile, in her presentation, Kristine Marie Romallosa-Dean, head of DOST-PNRI’s Radiation Protection Services, said that the Institute has different services that can ensure the safety of the workers. It includes calibration, personal monitoring, radiation control services, and dose registry.
To the question if we are safe from the use of nuclear technology, Dean believes that we are all safe if we have proper radiation control and we have effective radiation protection services.
“The main principle of radiation protection is that if we only pursue certain activities even if it has radiation, does the benefit offset the risk? Now, of course there is a risk of having a nuclear power program. Tama naman ang history, may accidents in the past. However, if you want to convince these people, focus tayo sa benefits. If you look at the energy profile of the Philippines, we really need to add energy sources, “explained Dean.
She added that nuclear energy can be one of the best solutions in terms of energy supply security as well as the economic benefits. She hopes that we can highlight its benefits and manage the risks.
“One of the most important aspects of nuclear technology is legislative and regulatory infrastructure because those regulations and laws, doon nakalagay lahat ng security and safety requirements,” Dean further explained.
She said that nuclear energy has been in operation in many countries for 60 years. It means that regulatory oversight has also matured and not only the technology. Dean suggested that we should always learn from regulators in other countries like Japan, United States, and South Korea on how they kept these nuclear power plants safe.
“Finland is the first country that is almost finished constructing its repository or nuclear waste disposal for high-level waste and it is a success story. It highlighted the social acceptance as they overcome the barriers and the reason for that is trust in our institution or operators,” said Dean.
In finding solution to the radioactive waste problem, Engr. Piquero answered, “Ang nuclear power technology is a matured technology. 60 years ago, mayroon ng nuclear power plant in operation sa buong mundo about 10% ng electricity ay galing sa nuclear power so lahat ng technology ay available, lahat ng knowledge is available para makagawa ng final disposal facility,” explained Engr. Piquero.
He added that all the nuclear waste ever produced in the United States can fit in 50-foot stacks on a single football field.
Engr. Piquero also dispelled the idea that nuclear waste is hazardous for thousands of years and poses threat to future generations.
“Radioactive waste naturally decays unlike other toxic waste that remains hazardous indefinitely. Most radioactive waste is only hazardous for a few tens of years as only high-level waste (3% volume) requires isolation for thousands of years,” explained Engr. Piquero.
Regarding the site disposal facility, he said that once we decide where we would put the nuclear power plant, then that is the time, as well, that we can decide where we would put the nuclear waste disposal facility.
In his video message, DOST-PNRI Director Carlo A. Arcilla said that they have technical divisions and experts that can look out for radiation protection services as well as the materials that can potentially harm society, nuclear materials, and the disposal of waste products of radioactive activities.
"Our experts will tell you how we dispose of these materials safely and what are the possibilities for protection that are afforded to the public," said Dir. Arcilla.
He added that nuclear material radiation is not visible, and that is why it is important that the public be protected. (By Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII)
Scientists and experts from the DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute assure the public that nuclear waste can be managed due to availability of technologies, facilities, and studies in the country. (Screenshot from DOST-PNRI Facebook Page)