THREE lawmakers, including Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, had revived calls to once and for all open the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) as an alternative to the rising costs of power sources.

But the tsunami that swept an estimated 14, 000 lives and a $14.5 billion worth of infrastructure in technology-savvy Japan has made them think twice.

While some experts see the possibility of finally putting the $2.3-billion BNPP to good use, one of them said “it’s not a good idea to push the project through” because the Philippines “is not ready for it yet.”

Not ready

Christina Petrache, nuclear services division chief of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, said it was possible for the country to restore the BNPP as long as the government would consider the lessons learned from the Japan nuclear disaster.

But this move, she added, would raise an issue on funding.

“If the lessons learned in Japan will be taken into account, the cost of operation will increase,” Petrache told the Varsitarian. “If the cost will increase, will the government be able to handle it?”

For Faculty of Pharmacy professor Erlinda Nuguid, the revival “will take so much money, time, and manpower” since it has never been used and the country is not adept to the kind of technology the plant might require.

“With the current situation of our economy and with what’s happening in our environment, it seems that the country is not yet ready for the consequences that [the operation of the plant] will bring,” she said.

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Qualifications

Both Nuguid and Petrache acknowledged that a nuclear power plant could supply electricity in a shorter amount of time and with less generation cost. But they warned that the construction and maintenance costs and the environmental hazards might be a high price to pay for the advantage.

“Nuclear wastes emit radiation and cannot just be disposed anywhere,” said Petrache. “It’s dangerous for the people and the environment.”

Edna Quinto, head of UST’s Chemical Engineering department, agreed that the BNPP would require a lot of funds to work.

“Our government is [already] spending a lot to maintain it,” she said. “It will take a lot more since it has been left since the late 1970s.”

Nuguid underscored the importance of conducting “a thorough study before pushing [for] the project,” especially on the condition and location of the plant. “There have been persistent rumors about the BNPP standing on a fault line,” she added.

“There should be a perfect location for each nuclear power plant,” Nuguid said.

She also advised the government to give priority to “the safety of our people and of the marine life,” given the nuclear wastes that the plant will emit.

With the country’s focus on other alternative sources of energy, Petrache said “there is no perfect source of energy, but [it has to be] a mixture of everything.”

‘White elephant’

The power plant, which was put up as a response to the 1973 oil crisis, has been sitting on a 3.5-square kilometer land in Morong, Bataan for the past three decades since its completion in 1984. It was designed to produce around 621 megawatts of electricity, in order to meet the needs of 800, 000 Filipinos.

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Controversy surrounded the plant even during its “rushed” construction, highlighting the limited time that then President Ferdinand Marcos gave to Westinghouse Electric Company, the plant’s designer.

The plant has never been used following the Chernobyl incident of 1986 and Marcos’ ouster, but according to a report by the AFP, it is “costing the government millions of dollars in maintenance.”

Recently, regional tourism director Ronald Tiotuico announced that the BNPP would be opened as a tourist attraction, given the people’s growing interest on nuclear power after the March 11 Japan incident. Alexis Cerado and Jan Eva Mari de Vera

3 COMMENTS

  1. I am glad to go through such a pertinent post in the aftermath of tsunami sweeping lives and property in Japan. It is natural to be apprehensive and cautious after the incident. However, we shouldn’t be blind to energy crisis.

  2. albeit this power plant is near the mt. pinatubo, it cannot be concluded that this BNPP will bring destruction which surrounds it. Chernobyl’s incident was imperative because it had an outdated machineries. and take note, BNPP has advanced technology back in 1986, so we cannot simply compare to chernobyl. For the sake of modernization and future generation, please open the power plant because our country has the most expensive electricity in the world!

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