There is merit and good sense in the decision of the Duterte administration and the Department of Energy under Sec. Alfonso Cusi to restudy the viability of nuclear energy as the possible long-term solution to the country‘s ever growing energy requirements
This includes the possible revival of the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP), which was commissioned and built during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos and was completed 32 years ago. Because of safety fears and the implacable opposition of President Corazon Aquino to the projects of her predecessor, the plant was mothballed. And the $ 2.3 billion the country spent in building the plant
was just written off as a wasted investment.
With the principal political opposition departed from the scene and the adduced safety fears with nuclear power largely discounted today, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is indubitably correct in seriously considering the possibility of bringing the BNPP into operation to meet the country’s growing energy needs.
Most of the objections and superstitions about nuclear energy are now no more than irrational fearfulness when we consider the nation‘s urgent need for sustainable and affordable energy.
They are even more irrational when we consider them side by side with the main advantages and superiority of nuclear power as an energy source, such as the following:
• Nuclear power is the safest, cleanest, and cheapest power-generator in the world today.
• No less than the World Health Organization has declared that nuclear energy is the least deadly among power generators.
• There are 30 countries today that have nuclear power in their energy mix, with more than 440 nuclear power plants in operation, more than 60 under construction, and more than a hundred planned. Among them are Russia, the United States, France, and England and Japan.
• “The [lowest]power rates in Europe today are in France. The cleanest country in terms of CO2 emissions and pollutions is France. Countries that have adopted it has a lot of economic benefits and environmental benefits to show for it,” said former congressman Mark Cojuangco, a leading Filipino advocate for the adoption of nuclear power.
• The safety concerns that arose from the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in Russia, and the tsunami-destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan have largely dissipated as safety measures adopted by governments have proved effective and fears over nuclear energy have now been addressed.
Still, the fact that the 2011 Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan took place close to home and occurred barely six years ago will renew concerns about safety in Philippine society.
Reviving the Bataan nuclear plant project will require, of course, an entirely new plan and a complete professional, engineering and scientific study.
In the plan for revival, it is contended that the BNPP will be safer than the Fukushima plant, which was equipped with a seismic design factor (peak ground acceleration) of 0.18g, and survived a magnitude-9 earthquake.
“BNPP is designed with 0.4 g—more than double the design basis—which would mean that if a [magnitude-] 9 earthquake were to hit Morong, I can definitively say that nothing will happen to our BNPP,” Cojuangco said.
He also noted that it was not the earthquake per se that damaged the Japanese power plant, but the tsunami that came thereafter.
“Fukushima is 6 meters above sea-level, BNPP is 19 meters above sea-level. Its generators are not in the basement. I can definitively say that if a tsunami the same size that hit Fukushima hits Morong, nothing will happen to our BNPP,” he said.
Perhaps the most persuasive argument for nuclear power is the unchallenged fact that it is the cheapest form of energy to use.
Also, the revival of the BNPP will not violate the Clean Air Act (nuclear power is the cleanest of all), or the Constitution (the charter says, “we should use nuclear technology for peaceful uses, to benefit society.”
We believe the arguments for the adoption of nuclear power, and hence the revival of the BNPP are quite persuasive. When viewed in the light of our rapidly growing economy and growing population, now may be the time to go nuclear. And now is the time to harness its beneficent power for our country.