Timeline: Nuclear Power in the Philippines
1955 – The Philippine government under President Ramon Magsaysay signs an agreement with the United States under the Atoms for Peace Program. The program stipulates the peaceful use of atomic energy.
1956 – Together with 82 nations, the Philippines joins the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a United Nations meeting in Geneva.
Magsaysay accidentally dies in a plane accident. Vice-President Carlos P. Garcia assumes office.
1957 – American-owned Meralco commissions US consulting firm Gilbert Associates to undertake a preliminary feasibility study of putting up a nuclear power plant in the country. The study concludes that such projects are not yet timely and should be entertained only by the 70s.
1961 – Congress approves the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), a commission which aims to conduct and promote research and development of materials in atomic energy production. The law was endorsed by Senators Arturo Tolentino, Emmanuel Pelaez, and Lorenzo Tañada and representatives Salvador Ecinas, Canuto Enerio, and Angel Fernandez.
1961 – Diosdado Macapagal becomes president of the Philippines, winning against Garcia.
1962 – Eugenio Lopez Sr. leads the Filipino buy-out of Meralco and succeeds.
The Philippines requests special assistance from the UN Special Fund in conducting studies on the feasibilities of putting up a nuclear power plant in the country.
1963 – the PAEC coordinates a second pre-investment feasibility study with the IAEA under the support of the UN Special Fund.
1965 – The pre-feasibility study recommends that government: 1) seriously consider the use of nuclear plants in the Luzon grid by early 70s, and 2) enact a law to regulate nuclear power and third party liability under the Vienna Convention on civil liability for nuclear damage.
Ferdinand Marcos succeeds Macapagal as president of the Philippines.
1967 – Meralco invites bids for the steam supply system of a 300-500 MWe (megawatts of energy) nuclear power plant to be completed by 1975. Meralco notes that Manila needs the capacity of the nuclear power plant by 1970s or 1980s.
1968 – By June, Marcos enacts the Philippine Atomic Regulatory and Liability Act (RA5207). The following month, the government enters into an agreement with the US government on the possible construction of 2 nuclear power plants and a long-term supply of enriched uranium.
1970 – The country enters a period of unrest where heavy demonstrations, protests, and marches, fill the streets due to alleged graft and corruption and the continuing high oil prices. The event was later on remembered as the First Quarter Storm.
1971 – Marcos sets up a coordinating committee for nuclear power study under Administrative Order 293. The order prepares for an updated feasibility study on a nuclear plant. By September, RA6395 was enacted, authorizing the National Power Corporation (Napocor) to construct, operate, and maintain power plants powered by nuclear, geothermal, and other energy sources.
1972 – Marcos declares Martial Law and Meralco is placed under government custody. Meanwhile, IAEA conducts another feasibility study of the nuclear plant with financial support from the UN Development Fund (UNDF).
1973 – The IAEA study concludes that putting up a 600MWe capacity into the combined NPC and Meralco supply system in Luzon is “technically feasible” and sites are available in the country.
By August, NPC sets up the initial organization and studies for project implementation. The corporation asks New York-based Ebasco Overseas Corporation to help evaluate the best site for the plant.
The first international oil crisis erupts and the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties (OPEC) imposes a partial embargo on oil exports to the United States and to other nations that sided with Israel in the Yom Kippur War. OAPEC is composed of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, with Egypt and Syria. The embargo results in a 70% increase in crude oil prices.
1974 – Discussions are held with General Electric (GE) and Westinghouse for the nuclear plant.
1976 – Bagac in Bataan becomes the chosen site for the power plant but is later transferred to uphill Morong to avoid possible tidal waves.
By February, the country chooses Westinghouse’s pressurized water reactor over GE’s boiling water reactors. The national government and Westinghouse sign a contract for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant.
In March, engineering efforts begin. By December, a provisional permit was issued by the PAEC to authorize limited work on the plant.
1977 – Site grading and excavation is finally completed by April. By June, the Napocor applies for a construction permit with the Preliminary Safety Analyses Report (PSAR). IAEA comes to the Philippines for another safety mission on the plant in July. By August, construction begins.
1978 – By May, IAEA sends out another safety mission for geological reviews of the plant. Marcos creates the Ministry of Energy through Presidential Decree No. 1206. PNC and the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) are added under the ministry.
A tidal wave hits Cotabato and a wary Marcos asks Westinghouse and NPC to prove that the nuclear plant can withstand earthquakes and tidal waves. The group defends that such concerns were already addressed by transferring the plant to Morong.
1979 – PAEC issues a construction permit for the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant (PNPP). On March, the Three Mile Island accident happens in Pennsylvania, USA.
By June, Marcos issues an order to suspend the construction of the power plant due to the Three Mile Island incident. Marcos forms a commission headed by Ricardo Puno to evaluate the plant for safety concerns. The commission finds out that the power plant needs additional safety requirements and public hearings on PNPP begin the month after.
1980 – By September, public hearings end and the suspension is lifted. The prime contract is amended to include design upgrades and new schedules. PAEC avails of expert services from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and IAEA, making PNPP the only nuclear plant to be audited by the IAEA before operations. By October, remobilization begins after the necessary changes were made to the contract.
1981 – By January, construction of the plant resumes. In the next six months, turbine general sole plates and the NSSS vessels and turbine slator are set in the plant. Soon after, the switchgear is energized.
The Iranian revolution drives up oil prices to $34 per barrel, bringing about the 1983-1984 economic crisis in the Philippines.
1983 – After 7 years of delivering services and equipments, PNPP is finally completed.
1984 – In May, hot functional tests are done and initial synchronization is done to connect PNPP to the Luzon grid. By June, fuel is delivered to the plant.
IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) conducts a review on the construction appraisal of the plant in July. By November, primary and secondary hydro tests are completed. Napocor starts sending engineers to the USA for training.
1985 – In February, the IAEA OSART conducts another review on the operational readiness of the plant. Public hearings begin in July for the plant’s licensing.
1986 – In February, the Philippine Supreme Court pens a decision that mandates the reconstitution of PAEC.
A few days after, the bloodless People Power happens and Marcos relinquishes his post as president and leaves the Philippines. Corazon Aquino became the country’s first female president after the revolt.
In April, the Chernobyl disaster happens in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, and thousands reportedly died of cancer due to radiation exposure.
The new government uses findings from a commissioned study and mothballs PNPP a few weeks after the Chernobyl accident. The study mentions millions of defects on the power plant. [Note: At a Congressional hearing on the proposal to recommission the BNPP, held sometime between September and October 2009, none of the resource persons were able to submit a copy of the study.]
By May, the operating contract of PNPP is suspended and the plant is placed in preservation mode under Napocor. The plant then becomes the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and has since been dubbed as the country’s white elephant.
1987 – The ministry of energy is replaced with the Office of the Energy Affairs through EO193. The Energy Regulatory Board (ERC) is created and EO215 is signed to allow investors from private sectors to participate in power generation.
1990 – Daily widespread black-outs occur 4 to 12 hours a day due to low supply of energy. The nationwide black-outs lasted until 1992.
1991 – Mt. Pinatubo erupts, emitting 10 billion metric tons of magma and bringing vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface. Surrounding areas are covered and ruined by pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and lahars. BNPP remains sitting in Mt Natib, 80km from the explosion.
1992 – Fidel Ramos becomes the president of the Philippines and institutes his Philippines 2000 platform. One of the key areas of the program is Energy and Power Generation due to the numerous black-outs experienced during Aquino’s term.
By December, Ramos signs RA7638, creating the department of energy with the primary aim of overseeing the operations of the energy sector. IAEA releases a feature on the status of nuclear power in Asia at the end of 1992. The data indicates a plan of the Philippine government to operate BNPP in 2010.
1993 – Ramos enacts the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law to solve the power crisis. It gives Ramos the power to issue licenses to independent power producers (IPP) to construct power plants within a 24-month period. The government agrees to buy power produced by the IPPs. Ramos also orders the formulation of a comprehensive nuclear power programme and asks Australia-based group METTS to conduct a study on conversion options for BNPP.
1994 – The Philippines power crisis is solved through privatization of plants and the construction of additional power plants in the country. BNPP remains mothballed.
1995 – METTS comes out with a study on converting BNPP to coal and natural gas. The report also includes an option for rehabilitating the nuclear plant.
Westinghouse and the Ramos administration reach an out-of-court settlement where Westinghouse will pay the Philippine government $100 million. The payment will be paid in $40 million in cash and 2 160mwe combustion engines that were worth $30 million each.
1996 – The Philippine government comes out with a nuclear energy programme. In the same year, Ramos releases an executive order, mandating Napocor to preserve BNPP.
1997 – The Asian Financial Crisis hits the Philippines and other neighboring Asian countries. The demand for power declines and cost of electricity rises. The DOE includes nuclear power as a potential source of energy in the Philippine Development Plan of 1997.
1998 – Joseph Estrada becomes the President of the Philippines.
2001 – Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo succeeds Estrada as President of the Philippines after the bloodless EDSA II revolution, after the latter was charged with graft and corruption.
2007 – In April, the $1.06 million debt acquired from the construction of BNPP, is finally paid in full after 32 years. Re-opening the plant becomes an option as oil prices peak in the world market.
The DOE includes nuclear power as a potential source of energy in its Philippine Energy Plan because of “skyrocketing crude oil prices.” The department proposes a plan to organize a review mission and conduct a feasibility study of the plant with the Philippines Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) and IAEA.
Oil hits the US$100 mark in early January. In the same month, the IAEA sends out a team of experts to counsel the Philippines government on the “practicalities” of reviving BNPP. Energy secretary Angelo Reyes discloses that the government is “seriously studying” the commissioning of BNPP in June, saying the rehabilitation would cost around $800 million.
In the energy summit conference in Manila, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who at the time chaired the Senate committee on energy, says that her committee will not approve any legislation for nuclear-energy development and instead focus on a renewable energy bill.
The IAEA comes out with a staff report and makes 2 recommendations: 1) the BNPP’s technical status must be thoroughly evaluated by technical inspections and economic evaluations conducted by a committed group of nuclear power experts with experience in preservation management, and 2) general requirements for starting its nuclear power programme with stress on implementation of proper infrastructure, safety standards, and knowledge.
In the same month, Tarlac representative Mark Cojuangco files House Bill 4631, a bill that commissions and rehabilitates the BNPP through a budget of $1 billion.
The global financial crisis hits Wall Street and developed countries underwent recession.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy discusses HB 4631 in late November.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy approves HB 4631 and submits it to the Committee on Appropriations for second referral.
The Philippine government enters into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government-owned Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO) to conduct a feasibility study on the condition of the mothballed BNPP.
2009 – By March, the House Committee of Appropriations approves HB4631 with amendments. The bill is then filed as HB6300 with Pampanga representative and energy committee chair Juan Miguel Arroyo as the principal author.
Sources: National Power Corporation BNPP-Asset Preservation Division, Philippine Free Press, Trailblazing: The Quest for Energy Self-Reliance by Geronimo Velasco www.doe.gov.ph, www.wikipedia.com, www.congress.gov.ph, www.senate.gov.ph