DOE takes another look at Bataan nuclear plant

By Iris C. Gonzales, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 09 2014 07:45 AM | Updated as of Jan 09 2014 03:45 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) is studying anew the possibility of utilizing the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) as it seeks ways to boost the country’s sources of energy amid soaring electricity prices.

“Some sectors are saying it is a solution to the problem…I am saying it is one possible (energy) resource,” Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said when asked about the possibility of operating the BNPP again.

Renewed discussions about BNPP and nuclear energy arose amid concerns on electricity prices following the record increase in the December 2013 generation charge of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s biggest power distributor, of P3.44 per kilowatt-hour. The Supreme Court has issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the rate hike.

Petilla said the goal is to decide on the fate of the controversial BNPP by the end of the Aquino administration.

“Whether it be mothballed, activated or scrapped totally, my thrust is this administration will decide on it,” he said.

At the same time, Petilla stressed it would be up to the Filipinos to make a final decision.

“Regarding BNPP, that is a decision that the President would have to take rather than myself. Of course, he will ask for recommendations. We’re actually studying it. We are looking at its effect but in the end, it will be given to the people to decide,” Petilla said.

Toward this end, the DOE is now studying the use of the BNPP, taking into consideration its social impact as well as technical and financial impact.

The study would also include looking at the best way to operate the plant and whether it would be bid out to the private sector.

“Whoever would operate it, the question is safety,” he said.

Petilla, however, anticipates controversy and opposition if indeed the government decides to revive the use of the BNPP.

He noted that most energy resources utilized in the Philippines such as coal have attracted controversy.

When asked if he personally believes in nuclear energy, Petilla said: “I believe in energy resources that are reliable and will bring about cheaper electricity, however the question is safety.”

He said if the public accepts the revival of the BNPP, he would push for a bigger capacity or about double the plant’s current capacity of 600 megawatts.