Nuclear plant options – Manila Standard


posted September 01, 2017 at 12:01 am

The government should, once and for all, make a clear policy statement now on the future of nuclear energy in the Philippines. Local and foreign investors as well as the public deserve to know the country’s policy direction to guide them beforehand and elicit a dispassionate discourse from all parties.

Nuclear power plant experts from Russia and other countries visited the mothballed 620-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Wednesday to start a study on the possible re-powering of the facility. The Energy Department hosted experts from Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. of Russia, Slovenia’s Gen Enerjia and Australia’s Worley Parsons during a tour of the controversial power plant.

The Energy Department is clearly leaning on reviving the power plant, which the late President Corazon Aquino and her nervous Cabinet mothballed 31 years ago after the catastrophic nuclear accident in Ukraine. The tour, according to the department, would “define the scope of work for the pre-feasibility study of the possible rehabilitation of BNPP.” Russia’s Rosatom is funding the two-month study for free as a part of the cooperation between the Philippines and Russia.

Harnessing nuclear power as a source of energy per se is not bad. Japan and other Asian countries are operating the cheaper source of power. Taiwan, for one, operates three plants and six reactors, including one at its most southern tip and very close to the northernmost part of Luzon island.

Operating one in the Philippines, however, should be weighed carefully because of the many active seismic faults in the Philippines. Like Japan and Taiwan, the Philippines sits on very high seismic hazards and along the so-called Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions could easily destabilize the locations of prospective nuclear power plants in the Philippines. Authorities, thus, should consider the geological nature of the Philippines and people preparedness before venturing into nuclear energy. A magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami disabled a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan on March 11, 2011, resulting in a nuclear meltdown and radiation leaks. The Philippines may not be prepared to deal with such a nuclear tragedy.

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