Scientists, green group reject Bataan nuke plant reopening

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2009 06:40 PM | Updated as of Jan 27 2009 02:40 AM

Two groups of scientists and environmentalists on Monday opposed a proposal to rehabilitate and reopen the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant despite never having been used by the government for the past 20 years.

Giovanni Tapang, national chairman of the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Agham), said proponents of BNPP's reopening should consider the safety, economic viability and sustainability of the 620-megawatt facility.

Tapang said an independent team should inspect every pipe, component, equipment and system in BNPP before allowing Korea Electric Power Corporation to conduct a feasibility study on the facility.

He said even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cautioned the Philippines not to let "commercial interests take precedence over safety issues" when considering the revival of delayed nuclear plants.

"The Philippines has many available energy resources from hydropower, geothermal, natural gas, wind and solar sources but these have been all put to sale by the government to private independent power producers (IPPs). Is the government now going to run the BNPP only to ask foreign operators to take over it?" he asked.

Environmental group Greenpeace said the proposal to revive the nuclear power plant is grotesquely capital intensive and expensive at almost all stages of its development.

"The $1 billion eyed to fund this project which will come from the pockets of ordinary Filipinos will be better spent on safe and cheap renewable energy. And if there must be haste, it should be for the finalization of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy Act, the real solution to energy security and climate change, which in contrast, sat in the Congress for more than a decade before it was passed," Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Von Hernandez said in a statement.

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo also refuted claims by Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, author of House Bill 4631, that the location of the BNPP is safe. HB 4631 cited Rodolfo's study on fault lines and volcanic activity in the area.

According to Rodolfo, the BNPP is situated on Mt. Natib, a dormant volcano which constitutes the entire northern half of the Bataan peninsula.

"People who are eager to reactivate the BNPP are dangerously misrepresenting scientific data. Given the burden the revival of the BNPP poses to all Filipinos, the government owes it to its citizens to vigorously, openly, and thoroughly explore all the ramifications of such a risky energy source," Rodolfo said.

Originally meant to cost around $500 million, the cost for the Bataan nuclear plant ballooned to $2.3 billion and was only paid in full on April 2007. A huge slice of the inflated balance was allegedly stolen by then President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies before Marcos's ouster in 1986.

The new government under Pesident Corazon Aquino refused to switch on the Bataan plant, fearing it was poorly constructed and too dangerous as it sits at the foot of a potentially active volcano and near a crossroads of geological faultlines.

The Philippine government recently invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to evaluate the facility and did not rule out the possibility of the plant being put into operation.

"We are seeing now perhaps a period of nuclear renaissance, a lot of countries in the region are going nuclear," said Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes.

He added: "The Philippine government is now revisiting the nuclear option as a source of energy.

"We anticipate that by 2010, 2011 we will be experiencing a supply gap in our power requirements. Over the long term we have to ensure that we have sustainable, steady, quality, affordable sources of power. And nuclear power provides exactly that."

Reyes said he believes the geological fears support the argument for commissioning the plant, as it has stood for 20 years "subjected to all kinds of threats, earthquake, typhoon and it has withstood all of that".  With Agence France-Presse