Bataan Nuclear Power Plant: The dormant multi-billion peso asset

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2016 08:15 AM

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) opened its doors for visitors to have a closer look at the mothballed power plant built to provide nuclear energy for the country.

The nuke plant built under the dictatorship of former president Ferdinand Marcos had the trademark of almost all Marcos' monuments: an icon during its time with a questionable price tag.

With a construction budget of $2 billion, the shell of the nuke plant was made from imported cement and Bethlehem steel, the same brand used to put up the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State building.

"Contrary to urban legend that fishermen were commissioned to put up the plant, welders were trained in the U.S. to piece the BNPP together," lawmaker Mark Cojuangco, who served as the tour guide, said.

It took 20 long years for the government to fully pay off the multi-billion debt, and while unused, taxpayers still pay for the plant's maintenance cost of P27 million annually.

But because of corruption allegations and safety issues, the state-of-the-art 'useless' asset has yet to produce a single kilowatt of nuclear power to contribute to the energy shortage in Luzon.

The impression that switching on the nuke plant will help solve the energy crisis that has been hounding Luzon since 2011 may only be a pink elephant as the BNPP's capacity is only around 620 megawatts, a far cry from Sual's 1,294.0 megawatt capacity and Pagbilao's 764 megawatt capacity.

Despite the nuke plant's limited capacity, advocates of nuclear energy say that it will help bring down energy prices, as it can generate about P1.50 per kilowatt, cheaper than coal plant rates pegged at P3-5/kilowatt.

Should plans to revive the plant be finalized, the government will have to spend another $1 billion to refurbish the obsolete control room, retrain staff, and conduct other maintenance checks.

Despite the four-decade dormancy of the BNPP, the National Power Corporation said it is still safe to use as it can withstand an intensity 8 earthquake or the impact from a Boeing 747.

But the fate of the idle nuke structure that has gobbled a big chunk of the country's budget over four decades remains in limbo as the government is also considering to turn it into a tourist destination, and build a brand new nuclear plant, regardless if taxpayers' money that was used to build and maintain the BNPP goes to waste.

-- With reports from Katrina Domingo, Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News