DOST chief still supports nuke power option

By David Dizon,

Posted at Mar 16 2011 03:02 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2011 03:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Nuclear power is still a viable energy source for the Philippines despite the partial meltdowns of nuclear reactors in Japan, a Cabinet official said Wednesday.

Secretary Mario Montejo of the Department of Science and Technology said he still supports the opening of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) provided that safeguards are put in place.

"Nuclear power is a safe, economical source of power. You have to [look] at it in relative terms. Our power rates are too high. The only way to bring it down is to use nuclear power," he told ANC's "Headstart."

Montejo said the BNPP was designed to withstand an earthquake that would cause higher ground elevation than the Magnitude 8.9 earthquake that hit the northeast part of Japan last Friday. "The assumption is [the BNPP] is much stronger than the one in Japan," he said.

He added that the BNPP would need retrofitting to upgrade its technology using the lessons learned in the Japan incident.

Montejo said other alternative energy sources have their own sets of setbacks. He said reliance on oil and fossil fuels leads to oil spills, "which are worse than Chernobyl."

He said using coal has environmental concerns while renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are much more expensive.

"The least expensive is nuclear. Maybe in some locations, hydro would be the least expensive," he said.

Tsunami factor

Montejo said one factor that the Fukushima plant in Japan did not take into account was the height of the tsunami that destroyed its auxiliary energy sources.

"The lesson of Japan is that you cannot have just one auxiliary power plant. You have to get energy for different sources," he said.

Montejo said the DOST will install more early warning systems worth at least P1 million each to warn Filipinos of an impending tsunami. Only one tsunami warning system has been installed in Lubang Island, he added.

Installing the devices, he said, would give residents at least 15 minutes lead time to evacuate to higher ground.

"It has a siren and you are given a few minutes to evacuate," he said.