Marcos reviewing South Korea recommendations on nuclear plant revival

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2022 04:55 PM

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Bagac is surrounded by wide roads and an elevated landscape to mitigate nuclear accidents. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Bagac is surrounded by wide roads and an elevated landscape to mitigate nuclear accidents. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Presumptive President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Monday said he was looking into reviving the mothballed nuclear power plant built during his late father's dictatorship. 

The Philippines needs to be ready with higher power supply "if we are going to industrialize post-pandemic," Marcos told reporters in a press conference after his meeting with several ambassadors.

"Napag-usapan namin ng South Korean ambassador yung offer nila at yung nakapunta na dito na expert ng nuclear power para tingnan ang Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, para makita kung ano pa ang puwede pang gawin, kung puwede pang ituloy o kailangan na ba magtayo ng bago," he said.

(We discussed with the South Korean ambassador their offer and their nuclear power expert has already visited the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, to see what else could be done, whether or not it could be revived or if a new one should be built.) 

"Binuhay namin muli ang diskusyon na 'yun. Although they have come before, we will now study their recommendation, their findings and we will see if we can still apply," he said.

(We revived that discussion.) 

Marcos noted that a power facility needs to have "at least 3 years of lead time" before it can be fully utilized.

"Kahit na hindi aabutan ng administrasyon ko (even if it will not happen during my administration), we still have to start somewhere," he said.

Earlier this year, Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) Director Carlo Arcilla said the Philippines may start running a nuclear power plant in 5 years if the proposed program will proceed without any obstacle.

South Korea has offered to rehabilitate the Bataan plant for $1.1 billion, he said in an interview in March 2022.

Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order earlier this year making nuclear power part of the country's planned energy mix. 

The Philippines -- regularly affected by electricity outages -- relies on largely imported carbon-belching coal for more than half of its power generation.

Supporters of nuclear power say the technology offers a cleaner option to help meet demand. But critics argue that renewable sources, such as wind and solar, are cheaper and safer to produce in a country hit by earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions.

Construction on the $2.2-billion Bataan plant finished before Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was ousted, but he never started it up. Its fate was sealed after the clan was chased into US exile and global fears over nuclear energy spiked following the Chernobyl disaster.

The succeeding Aquino government refused to activate it, and uranium fuel trucked to the plant was sold in 1997 at a $35 million loss. 

Meantime, digital communication and "security concerns in the region" were also discussed with South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Inchul, Marcos Jr. said.

"North Korea is a continuing concern to South Korea, and the stability in our area is something we have also discussed," he said.

Marcos did not mention if Chinese incursions in disputed waters were brought up during the said meeting.

In a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, Marcos said China and the Philippines "must not allow what conflicts or difficulties we have now between our two countries to become historically important."

— With a report from Agence France-Presse 

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