BNPP reopening sparks debate

Published by rudy Date posted on January 28, 2009

Proposals to re-open the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant has sparked anew debates regarding its safety, economic viability and sustainability issues.

Filipino scientists from the group the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Agham) cautioned lawmakers and policy makers that these questions have to be clearly answered before making any decision on the rehabilitation of the decades-old plant.

“While the effort of the proponents and the government to re-open the plant seems to be in full steam, reopening the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant should take into account the economic, technical and social aspects of the plant’s operation,” cautioned Dr. Giovanni Tapang, Agham national chairperson.

“Even before considering using the plant, every pipe, every component, equipment or system has to be inspected by a competent independent team. Leaving the preliminary inspection to interested parties such as KEPCO is questionable,” said Tapang.

KEPCO operates a similar plant in South Korea and is interested in operating the BNPP.

Even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned the country not to let “commercial interests take precedence over safety issues” when considering the revival of delayed nuclear plants.

“The nuclear plant is being proposed as part of the plan to address a looming energy shortage as well as to reduce electricity prices. We wonder why Congress and the Arroyo government can mull over providing funds to re-open the plant and yet continue to push for the sale of other power plants under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA),” Tapang said.

“Instead of looking at nuclear power to provide cheap energy, President Arroyo only has to realize that most of the energy resources she has auctioned could have provided the Philippines cheap and renewable energy,” the Filipino scientist said.

Instead, Agham is proposing other alternatives because the Philippines has many available energy resources from hydropower, geothermal, natural gas, wind and solar sources.

“Proposed revisions to the EPIRA to accelerate privatization leads us to expect more of the same in power rates: ever increasing pass-on rates from the embedded purchased power adjustments and currency adjustments that has driven the prices of power to more than P10 per kilowatt hour,” said Tapang, who is also convenor of the People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates (Power).

‘Twisted’ interpretation

In related developments, a Filipino hazard mitigation scientist lamented the apparent “twisted” interpretation of their study by a Pangasinan lawmaker, pushing for the immediate re-commissioning of the mothballed BNPP.

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, whose study on fault lines and volcanic activity in the vicinity of Subic Bay was cited by Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco in House Bill No. 4631, or An Act mandating the immediate re-commissioning and commercial operation of the BNPP, refuted claims that the location of the BNPP is safe.

In a press conference with Greenpeace, Rodolfo said that the BNPP sits on Mt. Natib, a dormant volcano that 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 ramification of such a risky energy source,” Rodolfo said.

Rodolfo explained that the study, which he co-conducted with other Filipino scientists, that was released in 2005 established that Mt. Pinatubo, Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles “owe their existence to the same geological line” and thus, all of these volcanoes are “not exactly dissimilar in behavior.”

Rodolfo, who is an adjunct professor of the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS) and professor emeritus of the University of Illinois, subsequently recalled that Mt. Pinatubo had a major eruption in 1991.

“When we think of Mt. Natib, we should not forget Mt. Pinatubo,” he said. “Just because walang fault line underneath (the BNPP), ay ayos na sya.”

“Our government should pay attention to the safety of the people and environment,” he also said.–Artemio Dumlao and Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star

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