Bataan nuke safer than Fukushima plant: UP-NIGS chief

By David Dizon,

Posted at Mar 17 2011 02:30 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2011 10:30 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The director of the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS) on Thursday said the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is much safer than the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan which suffered partial meltdowns of its nuclear reactors following a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami.

Speaking on ANC's Headstart, Dr. Carlo Arcilla said the Fukushima plant is a very old nuclear power plant that uses boiling water reactor (BWR) technology that was in use in the 70s.

On the other hand, the nuclear plant in Morong, Bataan uses pressurized water reactors used in many nuclear power plants in France and the United States.

"There's an exact copy of the BNPP in Japan. An exact copy. It has been running since 1983 and so far, no problems," he told ANC's "Headstart."

Arcilla said his own studies showed that the BNPP was not built on an active fault. He, however, noted that one could be near the plant.

He added that he expects the plant to withstand any massive quake since even the Fukushima plant withstood a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. He said the only thing that damaged the Fukushima plant was the 30-foot tsunami that came after the quake.
"Even if there is a nuclear accident in Japan, to me it is a proof of concept. Kung naubos yung 55 nuclear plants sa Japan and since this is the big one that they are waiting for, hindi bumagsak yung nuclear power plant. Ang nakasira duon ay yung tsunami," he said.

"If there is an earthquake (in the Philippines), I want to be [in the BNPP] because the walls are so thick," he added.

He added that the BNPP is also built 18 meters above sea level, which is still higher than the 30-foot tsunami that struck Japan.

The BNPP, built from 1976 to 1984 for $2.3 billion, was mothballed by then President Corazon Aquino after the 1986 People Power revolution which overthrew the Marcos regime.

The plant, which would have produced 621 megawatts, is supposed to have over 4,000 defects. The country’s single biggest debt item, taxpayersfinally paid it off in 2007.

The 2007-2035 Philippine Energy Plan released by the Department of Energy states that the country -- a net energy importer -- must consider a renewed nuclear power program amid oil price volatility.

Nuke power is cheap power

Arcilla said reopening the BNPP would lead to lower power rates especially now that the Philippines has the 2nd highest power rates in the world.

He noted that the US has over 100 nuclear power plants with only one nuclear incident, the Three Mile Island accident, in its history.

He said France has 80 nuclear power plants, which supplies 70% of the country's power. China, meanwhile, has 20 nuclear power plants and is building 20 more.

Arcilla said many sectors still have safety concerns about the use of nuclear power despite its widespread use in many countries. Over all, he said there are 460 nuclear power plants operating all over the world.

"The problem with it is if when you say the word nuclear, in people's minds it's nuclear bomb. Hiroshima," he said.

He said nuclear power is the cheapest to produce in the entire world since it is not reliant on fossil fuels such as coal and oil. He said uranium is readily available in countries such as Kazakhstan, Australia and Canada.

He also noted that, aside from solar energy, nuclear power is the cleanest energy available since it has no emissions.

"The biggest concern about nuclear energy is nuclear waste disposal since it will be around for the longest time. The solution to that is geological disposal. You put it below 400 meters below ground, put in several lines of defense and leave it there for a very, very long time," he said.

He added that in the Philippines, the only cheaper alternative to nuclear power is geothermal. "It is cheaper to produce but more expensive to deliver. Geothermal is very far from the cities. The connecting infrastructure is very expensive," he said.

PNoy cold on nuke power

Energy Secretary Rene Almendras earlier commissioned a study to assess the benefits of the BNPP.

Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, on the other hand, said he supports the proposition for as long as safeguards are in place.

Both Cabinet officials are of the view that nuclear power would help the government bring down power rates.

Malacañang, however, said it is standing pat on its decision sidelining the revival of the BNPP. 

“In terms of priority, that will be on the low, low end because of safety concerns. This has been made more emphatic because of the nuclear reactor incident in Fukushima,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda had said.