Bataan nuclear plant can still operate, says PH nuclear research body

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2020 10:32 AM | Updated as of Oct 04 2020 10:38 AM

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

MANILA - The mothballed Bataan nuclear power facility can still operate despite decades of unuse, the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute said Sunday.

"Mali yung sinasabi ng iba na laspag. 'Di pa nga ginagamit eh. Imbitahin ko kayo pumunta doon, 'yan lang yung nuclear plant sa mundo na pwede ka mag-selfie sa loob ng reactor," PNRI director Carlo Arcilla told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(It's wrong to say it's worn out. It hasn't even been used. I'll invite you to go there, it's the only nuclear plant in the world where you can take a selfie inside the reactor.)

Regarding its safety, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is "60 percent younger" compared to 98 nuclear plants in America, Arcilla said.

"Pangalawa, kung ang sinasabi unsafe, sabihin natin ang Chernobyl, ang Chernobyl po kasi, iba ang design. 'Yun ang tinatawag na Soviet design," he said.

(Secondly, if they say it's unsafe because of Chernobyl, the latter has a different design, what they call a Soviet design.)

"Lahat po ng nuclear plants na Western design, may takip. Ang tawag d'yan, containment structure. Kung sakaling may aksidente,. di kakalat. 'Yun pong Chernobyl, walang ganyan."

(All Western designs have a lid, a containment structure, so that if an accident occurs, it is contained. Chernobyl didn't have one.)

The Cherynobyl disaster refers to the 1986 explosion in the nuclear power plant in Ukraine that caused the immediate death of two workers, and subsequently of 28 firemen and emergency clean-up workers due to Acute Radiation Sickness and another one due to cardiac arrest, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A total of 200,000 people were displaced, and at least 1,800 cases of thyroid cancer were documented in children aged up to 14 years old when the accident happened, the IAEA said.

The Bataan nuclear plant has the same design with 3 power facilities located in South Korea, Slovenia, and Brazil, Arcilla said.

"Kung bubuksan po 'yan, meron tayong model na pagkukuhanan ng mga tao, spare parts," he said.

(If it will be opened, we have models where we can get personnel, spare parts.)

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The operation of nuclear powerplants are also cheaper versus coal plants, Arcilla said.

The former consumes fuel for 18 months worth $20 million, while the latter need 50 ships of 50,000 tons of coal worth $600 million, he added.

"Napakamura po ng production cost. 'Yun po ang isang ino-offer ng nuclear, kasi it’s the cheapest and the cleanest. Kasi walang binubuga yan eh, walang binubugang emissions," he said.

(Production cost is cheaper. Nuclear is the cheapest and the cleanest. It doesn't have emissions.)

"Ang cost kasi at least 1 half cheaper. Para sa taumbayan ito. Ang mahal kasi talaga ng kuryente sa Pilipinas, di lang sa kilowatt per hour. Ang sinasabi ko po dito yung proportion ng take-home pay na binabayad sa kuryente."

(It costs at least a half cheaper. It's for the people. Electricity is really costly in the Philippines, not just in terms of kilowatt per house. I'm talking about the proportion you pay for electricity from your take-home pay.)

A median Filipino family who earns P10,000 pays 10 percent or at least P1,000 for their electricity for a month, he said.

Built in the 1970s, the facility has remained shut since 1986, when it was supposed to have started operating, over concerns about its proximity to Mt. Natib, a dormant volcano.

In 2017, nuclear experts from Russia and Slovenia flew to the Philippines to assess the possibility of rehabilitating the plant.

Nuclear reactor builders Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd and Russia's Rosatom submitted plans in 2017 to rehabilitate the Bataan plant, at costs ranging from $1 billion to more than $3 billion, said engineer Mauro Marcelo who once oversaw the maintenance and preservation of the plant.

Officials have said the Philippines has to meet requirements set by the IAEA to run a nuclear power facility.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said last week that President Rodrigo Duterte want authorities to consult the residents of Bataan on the possible revival of the nuclear power plant located in the province north of the capital Manila.

--With reports from Reuters and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News