MANILA, MARCH 19, 2011
 (STAR) President Aquino will not support the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

“As of today, no,” Science Secretary Mario Montejo (photo) said when asked if Aquino would support resolutions in the House of Representatives seeking the revival of the BNPP.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino had always expressed concern over safety issues in operating nuclear power plants.

The government does not have any plans to use the BNPP, particularly in light of the dangers posed by the continuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, administration officials said.

Montejo, however, defended his position supporting the restoration of the BNPP.

“Personally, I am for the nuclear power plant even if this (nuclear accident) happened. I look at it as a technical problem that therefore needs a technical solution,” he said.

“But we have to validate. I don’t know about the expenses, if it is still viable to restore it. But technically, it is viable.”

Rodriguez hits Montejo

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez hit Montejo yesterday for continuing to support the the BNPP’s opening.

“I think that statement (backing proposals to make BNPP operational) is insensitive to the present situation,” he said.

“He (Montejo) should not have said that. This statement is uncalled for.”

Rodriguez said even proponents in the House of Representatives have said they have put on hold their bills seeking to activate the BNPP.

Developed economies dependent on nuclear energy have already began reviewing their power policies in light of the disaster in Japan, he added.

Germany has already decided to phase out all their nuclear facilities by 2020, Rodriguez said.

Montejo claimed the BNPP was constructed to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis.

“From the technical side, the BNPP has also a containment chamber,” he said.

“So, that makes it similar (to nuclear power plants in Fukushima) but it uses a higher, a different kind of technology even better than the one in Japan,” he said.

Montejo said the design load for earthquakes of the BNPP is more reliable.

“So our BNPP has better design for earthquake,” he said.

BNPP, a museum?

A top official of the National Power Corporation (NPC) sees the BNPP’s conversion into a museum for engineering students and a tourist destination.

Engineer Mauro Marcelo Jr., head of the group maintaining the BNPP, said engineering students can see for themselves the actual details of a nuclear plant.

Dismantling the BNPP would be a difficult and costly task because it was designed to withstand extreme situations, he added.

However, former lawmaker Mark Cojuangco strongly opposes the total abandonment of the BNPP.

“It would be the saddest part of history when the BNPP, which has cost a lot of money and now fully paid by the government, would go to waste,” he said.

Cojuangco said for the moment he has declared a self imposed moratorium on his crusade in respect to the fears and apprehensions of people over the events in Japan.

However, the BNPP’s revival is the key to the full development of the country as this will address the energy needs of incoming industries, he added.

Marcelo said the BNPP has been attracting visitors, mostly students and local tourists.

“Thousands of visitors have visited the plant in Morong town,” he said.

Marcelo said studies have been presented regarding the use of the BNPP in case government decides to abandon it.

Among them is the transformation of the facility into a natural gas operated facility, he added.

The government is spending at least P40 million a year to maintain the BNPP, Marcelo said.

Built during the Marcos administration, the BNPP was completed in 1984 at a cost of $2.3 billion.

It was mothballed when Corazon Aquino was president after a team of international experts declared it “unsafe and inoperable.”

The BNPP was built near major earthquake fault lines and close to dormant volcanoes, according to experts. – Helen Flores, Paolo Romero, Perseus Echeminada


Pangasinan still wants nuke plant By Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) Updated March 16, 2011 12:00 AM

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 (photo) 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

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved