MANILA – Sen. Nancy Binay on Tuesday called on energy officials to conduct a comprehensive study of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) amid interests to revive the mothballed facility to respond to the country’s growing energy needs.
“Maybe it’s high time we should put budget on research on what to do with this power plant,” the senator said during the deliberation of the Department of Energy’s proposed 2021 budget.
Binay raised concern the government was wasting money for the safekeeping of the property.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on energy, said some P52 million were spent for maintenance of BNPP this year. For 2021, the DOE is requesting P92 million for the plant’s upkeep.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi told senators his agency had conducted consultations with experts from Russia and South Korea on the possible operation of BNPP, despite public concern over its safety.
“They have informed us that BNPP can still be revived,” he said. However, it was unclear how much the government will need to rehabilitate it.
Cusi had said in the past that in line with the policy of the DOE to tap all energy sources to ensure the country's energy security, the government is working on including nuclear in the energy mix.
In January 2019, he told reporters, "We have submitted to Malacanang our recommended national position on nuclear. If the President signs and approves that, it will tell all that the Philippines is open to nuclear. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it starts right away. The other measures should be there, like framework, legislation."
The Philippines, as with other countries, has to comply with certain criteria set by the International Atomic Energy Agency before it can operate a nuclear power plant.
During Tuesday's hearing, Sen. Risa Hontiveros opposed plans to include nuclear power to the country’s energy mix, saying other countries are grappling with disposing of its radioactive waste.
“Nuclear energy is not the technology of the future. It’s a technology of the past,” she said, adding the Philippines is rich in domestic resources and can tap other sources of renewable energy.
In early October, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte wants authorities to consult the residents of Bataan on the possible revival of the nuclear power plant.
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.
The Philippines shelled out $2.3 billion on the 621-megawatt BNPP but decided not to operate it after the Chernobyl disaster and the collapse of dictator Ferdinand Marcos' rule.