THE chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy on Sunday warned against the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) without a clear and intensively researched national nuclear policy.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian cited safety concerns and lack of technological capabilities in opposing the revival of the plant which has gathered dust since its completion in 1984.
Gatchalian said the Department of Energy (DOE) should commission a comprehensive feasibility study on the prospects of utilizing nuclear power in the country before pushing ahead with the construction or refurbishment of any nuclear plants, including BNPP.
“We cannot jump into nuclear energy on a piecemeal basis. This feasibility study on nuclear power will be critical to objectively assessing the merits of adding nuclear power to our energy mix. We need to do our homework first before pulling the trigger on BNPP or any other nuclear project,” the senator explained.
The study, he said, would tap independent international experts in geology, nuclear physics, engineering and other key fields to independently assess the prospects of nuclear power in the Philippines, with environmental and community safety as the primordial concern.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi last week announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed him to proceed with the revival of the BNPP.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, one of those pushing for the revival of the BNPP, thanked the President for his decision, saying the use of nuclear energy may be the missing component for genuine economic growth and development.
“Due to the high cost of power, our economy never really took off. Cost of power has become prohibitive for business that our economy didn’t fully develop,” Ejercito pointed out.
The country spent $2.3 billion to construct the BNPP, which was designed to generate 620 megawatts or 10 percent of the power requirement in Luzon.
Gatchalian, however, maintained that it would be more prudent to invest the $1 billion needed to refurbish the plant in exploration and development of untapped indigenous energy sources, especially within the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
“We have to make sure that we are investing this substantial sum in cost-efficient energy ventures which are guaranteed to make significant contributions to the long-term stability of our energy supply,” the lawmaker said.