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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 182

(Question No. 776)

Senator Bolkus asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs , upon notice, on 2 April 1984:

(1) What are the reasons for the Philippines Government's decision in 1976 to undertake the construction of its first nuclear power plant.

(2) Did the Philippines Minister for Energy, Mr Geronimo Velasco, on 22 February this year, state that the still unfinished nuclear power plant will be a losing venture because of continued escalation of costs and the need to extend the repayment.

(3) Did he also state that interest charges alone during construction were enough to build an 800 megawatt geo-thermal plant in much less time and that no permanent disposal for the resulting nuclear waste has been found.

(4) Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs indicate whether there is any claimed benefit of such power and technology to the Filipino people in the light of these statements.

(5) Why has Australia agreed to supply uranium to a plant established in such circumstances.

(6) Is not Australia's decision to supply uranium to such a plant implied approval of the Philippines Government's decision to impose undesirable and expensive technology on the already needy Filipino people.

(7) Is this decision consistent with the Foreign Affairs policy decision that Australian aid to the Philippines must be maintained to assist the people of that country despite the repressive conditions imposed by the Marcos Government' s regime.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) As indicative of the Philippines Government's thinking at the time, its representative to the Nineteenth General Conference of International Atomic Energy Agency in September 1975 is reported by the official record to have noted that the developing countries had suffered from the increases in the price of oil: the Philippines, for example, had been obliged to spend $700m on petrol in 1974 and the expenditure would reach $2,000m in 1980. In order to overcome that difficulty he said, the Philippines intended to use nuclear energy to cover 30 per cent of the country's electric power requirements in 1985.

(2) and (3) I am advised that on 22 February 1984, the Philippines media carried statements attributed to the Philippines Minister of Energy, Mr Geronimo Velasco, in the context of his 20 February visit to the Bataan nuclear power plant site. The Metro Manila Times quoted Mr Velasco as saying the project was a losing venture, pointing to an urgent need to restructure the entire $2.1 billion nuclear power plant loan because of the current economic crisis in the Philippines as a relevant consideration. Mr Velasco is also reported to have stated that the interest charges during the plant's eight year construction were sufficient to build an 800 MW geo-thermal plant in less time. On the nuclear waste disposal question, the Metro Manila Times quoted Mr Velasco as saying that construction of an additional radioactive waste building at the Bataan site ' would ensure that wastes from the plant are properly stored'. He is also quoted as canvassing several options for ultimate safe disposal, and management of the radioactive waste produced by the plant.

(4) This is an assessment which must be made by the Philippine authorities.

(5) The 8 August 1978 agreement between Australia and the Philippines concerning co-operation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the transfer of nuclear material-which entered into force on 11 May 1982-does not represent any specific agreement by the Australian Government to supply uranium to any specific nuclear power plant. It does provide a framework for possible nuclear co-operation between the Philippines and Australia, including for Australian uranium mining companies to compete with other suppliers for uranium supply contracts with the relevant Philippine operator and the controls that would apply to that co-operation. No Australian company has negotiated a contract to supply uranium to the Philippines and no Australian uranium has been shipped-nor can it be so shipped until an administrative arrangement pursuant to Article IX. 3 of the agreement is concluded. Whether the Government will be prepared to approve any new sales contracts and authorise shipments of uranium under such contracts to the Philippines or other countries is a matter for future decision by the Government.

(6) and (7) See my answer to (5) above. As no decision has been made, these questions do not arise.