Solon pushes use of nuclear energy to cut power rates


Posted at Sep 29 2022 01:46 PM | Updated as of Sep 29 2022 01:50 PM

File photo of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
File photo of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A lawmaker is making a fresh push to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant to lower the price of electricity in the country.

According to Pangasinan 2nd District Rep. Mark Cojuangco, the country's lone nuclear power facility could become operational before the term of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr ends.

"It's more possible than it’s ever been in decades... I'm convinced that nuclear is the only way to reduce the prices of electricity and eliminate the dependence of imported coal or gas," he told ANC's "Headstart" Thursday.

He said nuclear fuel would only cost P0.55 per kilowatt-hour compared to P10 kWh to coal.

"From that price difference, you can see that nuclear is compelling for the Philippine context and situation," he said.

"It's a no brainer at this point in time. With this [looming powere] crisis, the ROI (return of investment) of nuclear plants would be very short. It would be the cheapest thing to do," added the lawmaker, son of prominent Marcos ally Eduardo Cojuangco.

According to research consultancy Radiant Energy Group, the 620-megawatt plant in Bataan "is in much better shape".

"But that not's even the key part. The key part is I hadn't realized that BNPP had passed all the hurdles to enter safe operation more than a year before it was mothballed," Radiant Energy Group managing director Mark Nelson also told "Headstart".

"By that I mean it did the most extreme and difficult test that a nuclear plant will ever face before turning on. It did the hot functional test," he added.

Nelson also said the structure of BNPP is similar to those currently operating in Brazil, Korea, and Slovenia.

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The newly formed Special Committee on Nuclear Energy, chaired by Conjuangco, held its first organizational meeting early this month to discuss the advantages of nuclear energy, which is being touted as a cheap, clean, and reliable electricity.

The panel also intends to tackle the following:

  • defining the role of nuclear in the country's energy future
  • nuclear plant financing
  • nuclear waste 
  • discussing the bilateral agreements with the US, specifically the 123 agreement in their 1954 Atomic Energy Act
  • the need for a bilateral agreement with the US that would classify the country as generally acceptable country for nuclear technology.

Built in the 1976, the BNPP has remained shut since 1986, when it was supposed to have started operating, over concerns that it sits on a major earthquake fault line and lies near the Pinatubo volcano.

The Philippines shelled out $2.3 billion on BNPP but decided not to operate it after the Chernobyl disaster and the collapse of dictator Ferdinand Marcos' rule.

A scientist group has warned the plant is antiquated and faulty and would cost another $1 billion to rehabilitate.

"If we want energy sufficiency in the coming decades, we need to harness our own indigenous energy resources and move away from imported, dirty, and dangerous fuels such as coal and nuclear," the AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology said in a statement.

"The country has more than enough energy resources to satisfy our current and future energy needs. With the BNPP, we will be dependent on uranium which will only be sourced from other countries."