Pangasinan still wants nuke plant

Published by rudy Date posted on March 16, 2011

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, Philippines – Despite the nuclear crisis in the tsunami-ravaged northeastern Japan, a Pangasinan official said the provincial board is not rescinding a resolution to have a nuclear power plant built along its coastline.

The resolution was approved last year. It invited the national government “to locate, under certain conditions, the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) nuclear plant assets within the boundaries of the province, most specifically along the coastline areas.”

Sixth district Board Member Alfonso Bince Jr. said in a local news program in Dagupan yesterday that the provincial board is not changing its mind regarding the resolution as they are merely inviting the national government to see the possibility of Pangasinan hosting a nuclear power plant after extensive and careful study of experts on this project.

The resolution approved in February 2010 was forwarded to the office of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but nothing has happened so far.

Then Pangasinan fifth district Rep. Mark Cojuangco was the proponent of this idea and also sponsored a bill in Congress allowing the re-commissioning of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

Cojuangco reportedly approached President Aquino, his cousin, on this matter but no development has been heard of yet. He said that the South Korean government has commenced disposing of its KEDO Nuclear Power Plant assets. He added that there are other provinces like Cebu, Negros Occidental and General Santos that are also interested in securing the nuclear power plant.

“Let us not have moratorium on studies (of the nuclear power plant),” Bince said.

He said once the studies of experts from the University of the Philippines and the International Atomic Energy Agency would allow the hosting of the nuclear plant along the coastal areas of Pangasinan, this will be subjected to a referendum by Pangasinenses.

FDC: No to nukes

But the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), a non-government organization, asked President Aquino in a press statement to drop all options of tapping nuclear power as a solution to the country’s power generation problem.

FDC president Ric Reyes said that with Japan’s terrifying experience with their nuclear energy systems, “all attempts at reviving the BNPP must be quashed and the nuclear option indicated in the government’s economic blueprint junked.”

“We should learn from Japan. The Philippines and Japan are situated on the edges of the Pacific Ring of Fire. In fact, a tectonic plate between the Philippines and Japan is named after our country – the Philippine Sea Plate or simply, the Filipino Plate.”

According to FDC, the Aquino administration is still considering nuclear energy as reflected in the draft Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, the government’s economic blueprint, which identifies growth sectors for the next six years.

Another evidence that the government is seriously pursuing nuclear energy prospects is the presentation last year of Mauro Marcelo of the National Power Corp. of eleven possible sites for a new nuclear power plant.

“What made this government think that a nuclear plant is safe from tremors in Cavite, Negros or Zamboanga? We should consider the fact that even Japanese technology, one of the most advanced in the world, failed to prevent the breaking down of its cooling plants and to avoid possible nuclear meltdown. Indeed, no amount of modern technology can withstand extreme natural disasters,” he added.

‘Superstitious and ignorant’

Meanwhile, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago scoffed at the statements of legislators against discussing any proposal to revive the mothballed BNPP because of the partial meltdown of the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Santiago, who filed a bill calling for a revisiting of the nuclear power option, said that the statements issued by various sectors, including some legislators from the House of Representatives, were alarmist and “borne out of superstition and ignorance.”

She explained that there was only a partial meltdown of the nuclear plant in Fukushima and that the scale of seriousness has yet to be determined.

Santiago also noted that the BNPP was a more modern facility compared to the Fukushima plant.

However, she explained that her bill merely called for a review of the viability of reviving the BNPP and not for its outright operation.

“The bill that I have filed only asks for public officials concerned to validate the operability of the BNPP. In other words, we are asking experts in our government to tell us if we can still operate Bataan, check for operability with respect to mechanical, electronic, and structural,” Santiago said.

“There are two stages: the first stage is that they will check, review, analyze and examine, then make recommendations. If the result is ‘no go,’ then we will proceed in permanently closing down the BNPP,” she added.

If ever the recommendation is that it is still viable, Santiago said this would not mean that the BNPP would be opened immediately.

“We are not going to open the plant, but cursorily we have to have all the experts at our command and within our resources validate it first,” she said.

“It is alarmist to say we cannot have a nuclear power plant because look at what happened in Japan. We have to wait for what will be the effect of the partial meltdown in Fukushima before we make any comments with respect to the pending bill,” she added. In her proposed bill, Santiago noted that nuclear energy is cheaper and cleaner compared to coal-fired plants. – Marvin Sy, Rhodina Villanueva, Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star)

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