The new BNPP

Published by rudy Date posted on February 16, 2009

Consider the following: 1) The Philippines, at present, is proven to have at least 2,600 MW of untapped geothermal energy resources, with tens of thousands more left to be discovered; 2) Filipino geothermal scientists and engineers are considered to be the best in the world, such that countries like Japan are fast recruiting them for their own massive geothermal energy drives; 3) The Philippines is currently the world’s number two geothermal energy producer and needs only 70 MW more to overtake the US; 4) Geothermal energy is indigenous and never has to be imported, and is literally infinite in human terms; plus, 5) It’s renewable for the rest of our lives.

Geothermal energy is undoubtedly one of the cheapest renewable energy resources. It can be large, medium to small-scale, down to the barangay level, and can cost only a few thousand pesos; making it democratic and anti-monopoly. The newest binary cycle technology alone already makes for very efficient low-temperature geothermal energy and is a closed cycle that ejects nothing into the atmosphere. This list could go on had we included the many other advantages of geothermal power over other sources of electricity — except maybe for hydroelectric and natural gas (if the latter wasn’t pegged to the price of petroleum as Malampaya is). Still, the advantages listed above already make it the imperative energy source for our nation’s development program in this era of “energy independence.”

The international media reported last Jan. 5, 2009 that even Japan is now focusing on a massive campaign to increase its share of geothermal energy because it is the least polluting of all the energy alternatives that are practicable at this time. In addition, a June 2, 2008 report from Renewable Energy Germany shows that country is also going geothermal, saying this could generate 600 times its present power capacity. Despite the obvious wisdom in going geothermal, however, there are a number of Filipinos still insisting on a billion-dollar revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which is really nothing more than a concrete shell, with no fuel or workable equipment to revive.

Nuclear power plants run on uranium fuel that is not only expensive per pound, but is also subject to continuing price hikes as more and more countries, bereft of geothermal resources, turn nuclear. If the Philippines were to go this route, it would be perpetually dependent on foreign sources of uranium fuel rods, which will become a tremendous dollar drain on our economy. What makes nuclear power even more capital intensive is the large size of its plants: The lone nuclear power proposal here alone costs $1 billion.

Furthermore, expansion of the country’s geothermal capacity can be done as the need expands. Plus, the modest budgetary requirements will minimize foreign loans; thus, no longer adding to our gargantuan national debt, which has taken a heavy toll on our economic and social development. My argument against the nuclear revival project does not use the scare tactics of the anti-nuke, anti-BNPP extremists about so-called safety risks of Morong as a power plant site. I have always opposed the disinformation of these extremists since the early 1980s which have exacted such a huge loss for our nation. The late PhiVolcs Chief Dr. Raymundo Punongbayan made it very clear that there are no such safety concerns and we had always worked to educate people on this. The six nuclear power plants in earthquake-stricken Taiwan and the dozens in Japan that have been up for years show they pose no danger at all.

So the issue is not the safety of nuclear power. It’s all about economics. Aside from the horrendous construction costs intrinsic to nuclear power plants, there are the equally expensive nuclear waste storage and disposal problems to contend with. All these will add to the high power rates already saddling the Philippines, which now has the highest electricity prices in Asia. A little comparison between geothermal and nuclear power makes it crystal clear which is the more sensible direction for the Philippines.

Proponents of the BNPP’s revival argue that nuclear power plants can also desalinate sea water to produce fresh water. In a tropical country where floods plague the land, water impounding projects would cost a fraction to build. What’s more: They also want to fund the new BNPP with taxpayers’ money by charging an additional P0.10/kwh of our consumed electricity!

They don’t think economic rationality; just political control and economic exploitation through a command economy based on corporate greed.

(Tune in to 1098AM: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. / Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. / Saturday, 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with the topic, “Renewable energy: RP’s future;” also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com) –Herman Tiu Laurel, Daily Tribune

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