Open Letter to President Rodrigo R. Duterte

January 20, 2019

President Rodrigo R. Duterte


JP Laurel Street, San Miguel

Manila 1005, NCR, Philippines

Dear President Duterte,

We are writing as concerned scientists, environmentalists, and global citizens to encourage you to support the inclusion of nuclear energy in your pursuit of clean energy. We applaud your efforts to increase the share of electricity in the Philippines that comes from clean, reliable, and secure energy sources.

While the Philippines benefits significantly from geothermal energy, the share of electricity it generates from clean energy sources has fallen from 55 percent in 1986 to 25 percent in 2017. The reason was that most of the growth of the country’s energy supply was met by fossil fuels.[1]

Now, Philippines is at risk of increasing its dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal. It is currently the largest source of electricity in the country, and is expected to grow significantly. About half of the coal Philippines consumes is imported at a cost of about ₱50 billion ($1 billion) a year.[2] The Philippines has the 16th most expensive electricity out of 44 nations, according to a 2016 study by Manila Electric Co.[3]

We encourage the Philippines to consider using nuclear to reduce its reliance on coal and other fossil fuels. In 1963, the Philippines received a research reactor from the U.S. under President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, and from 1976 until 1984, the Philippines built the Bataan nuclear power plant in Luzon, but never started it. The plant has been maintained over the years and thus with a refurbishment could be operational within a few years. Doing so would be a positive next step to making nuclear energy a key source of electricity for the Philippines.

Few people realize that nuclear energy is the safest way to produce reliable electricity.[4] The reason for this is because it does not create outdoor air pollution, which kills 4.2 million people a year.[5] In fact, nuclear power has saved over 1.8 million lives by preventing the burning of biomass and fossil fuels.[6]

Nuclear power also protects the natural environment by requiring far less land and resources than other energy sources — an especially important attribute for the Philippines, a biodiversity hotspot. Due to the energy density of nuclear fuel, coastal nuclear plants in the Philippines would require 180 times less land[7] and 17 times less construction material than solar.[8]

Had the 71 terawatt-hours of fossil fuel electricity that Philippines consumed in 2017[9] been provided instead by solar farms like the nation’s largest in Cadiz City, a land area the size of Metropolitan Manila would be required — and at a cost of ₱4 trillion ($80 billion).[10] And because of the inconsistent nature of solar energy, which would only generate about 20% of the electricity implied by its installation size[11], a major expansion of solar or wind in the Philippines would require the continued operation of expensive backup fossil fuel plants.

Wind power fares scarcely better on the basis of either footprint or cost, while also posing significant danger to bats and migrating birds. To replace just the quantity of the Philippine’s fossil electricity production from 2017, 193 wind farms the size of the largest in the country would need to be constructed, covering 1320 square kilometers and at a scaled cost of ₱4.5 trillion ($87 billion).[12]

Because uranium is so energy dense, nuclear plants create very small amounts of waste. For example, all of the used fuel ever produced in the United States can fit in a thirty-foot stack on a football field.[13] And unlike every other method of producing electricity, nuclear power is the only way that safely manages and pays for its waste.

Though clean energy is important in protecting our shared atmosphere, reliable energy is especially important for island nations, as coal and most natural gas must be imported. This means that unfavorable international developments in world markets or in surrounding territorial waters can become threatening to prosperity and stability. Nuclear energy offers the ability to store many years of fuel, thus providing economic and physical security of supply.

We encourage you to compare the advantages and disadvantages of different clean energy technologies as you develop a future for your country. We believe that nuclear energy can be the vital link between nature, prosperity, and peace in the Philippines.


Michael Shellenberger, Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” President of Environmental Progress

Dr. James Hansen, Climate Scientist, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Dr. Tom Wigley, Climate and Energy Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

Dr. Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. Winner of the National Medal of Science, 2001

Dr. Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School

Dr. Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University

Dr. David Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California

Dr. Barry Brook, Professor of Environmental Sustainability, University of Tasmania

Dr. Paul Robbins, Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Richard Rhodes, author, Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Dr. Gerry Thomas, Professor of Molecular Pathology, Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London

Dr. Philip Thomas, Professor of Risk Management, University of Bristol

Dr. Wade Allison, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Oxford University


[1] Data from BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2018

[2] Data from MIT’s Atlas of Economic Complexity, for year 2016. Available:

[3] Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz, “In power hungry Philippines, some advocate a nuclear revival,” Reuters, May 22, 2018

[4] Markandya, A., & Wilkinson, P. “Electricity Generation and Health,” The Lancet, 370 (9591), p. 979-990, 2007.

[5] World Health Organization (WHO), 2016.

[6] Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen, “Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power,” Environmental Science and Technology, 2013

[7] Comparison between a facility like Bataan Nuclear Plant if operated, and assumed production from Cadiz City solar farm. If operated at 85% capacity factor, Bataan’s 570 megawatt (net) capacity would produce 4.3 terawatt-hours per year on an approximate land area of 0.2 square kilometers, for a density of 21.6 terawatt-hours per square kilometer. Cadiz City as detailed in (8) has a power density of 0.12 terawatt-hours per square kilometer.

[8] “Quadrennial Technology Review: An Assessment of Energy Technologies and Research Opportunities,” United States Department of Energy, Table 10, 2015.

[9] BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2018

[10] Details on the solar farm near Cadiz City from Ellera, T., “Unveiling of P10-B solar plant set March 3,” Sun Star Bacolod, February 12, 2016.

Calculation assumes production factor of 15% for installed solar capacity (DC) in the Visayas; measured solar farm area of 1.48 km; solar farm capacity of 132.5 megawatts (DC); and reported solar farm price of ₱10 billion.

[11] Iban Vendrell, “Philippine solar resource characterization, challenges and implications for the sector”, Presentation at 2015 Asia Solar Energy Forum. Available:

[12] Burgos Wind Farm in northern Luzon is expected to produce 370 gigawatt-hours per year of electricity while covering 6.86 square kilometers, with an estimated construction cost of $450 million: “Burgos Wind Project, Ilocos Norte”, Power Technology.

[13] “Safely Managing Used Nuclear Fuel”, Nuclear Energy Institute.