Refresher: Why reviving the Bataan Nuclear Plant is controversial

October 7, 2020 - 5:11 PM
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This December 19, 2011 photo from Wikimedia Commons shows Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. (Jiru27 / CC BY-SA via https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant has been one of the most controversial construction projects in Philippine history, and plans for it to run have been revived.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered public consultations with residents of Bataan province on whether they would approve of the reopening of the plant, constructed in 1976 but has not run even for a day.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque bared the details of Duterte’s meeting with Environment Secretary Alfonso Cusi on October 1.

“Ibalik sa ground level, tatanungin ang taumbayan ng Bataan kung ano ba talagang gusto nila. Hindi pupuwede na sa taas nanggagaling ang desisyon. Iyon pala iyong statement ng Presidente na dapat i-share ko lalung-lalo na sa aking mga kababayan dito sa Bataan. Tayo daw po ang unang konsultahin kung mabubuksan muli ang Bataan Nuclear Power Plant,” Roque said.

The national government had been considering the possibility of using nuclear energy as a power source for years.

Last July, Duterte signed Executive Order 116 that created an inter-agency committee tasked to assess the feasibility of operating the nuclear plant.

This 11-member committee will comprise officials from the energy, science, finance, foreign affairs and environment departments. Members will also represent the National Economic and Development Authority.

This EO required the committee to submit an initial report by January 2021.

There were several reasons why the property has remained a 30-year-old dud.

In February 1986, late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ dark regime collapsed. The Chernobyl disaster, considered the worst nuclear accident in history, also took place in northern Ukraine in April.

In 2011, an earthquake in Japan caused a leak in the country’s old Fukushima nuclear plant. This revived concerns over the Bataan plant.

Concerns and fears

In a video posted on October 2 on Facebook, Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman opposed the reopening of the Bataan NPP due to safety and environmental risks.

The position, she said, is based on a small online survey among her constituents.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga also opposed the rehabilitation of the BNPP.

1. Safety risks

The past decades that the plant was not being used may have left the facility in a poor condition. Roman said there could be a greater risk of a radioactive leakage.

“Baka obsolete na ang kanyang technology. Baka may mga cracks and fissures na yan. And of course, pag merong ganon, if there’s a slightest risk of danger para sa aking mga kababayan dito sa Orani and of course para sa aming mga nakatira and bahagi ng komyunidad ng mga Bataeño, ay syempre di naman po ako papayag,” the lawmaker said.

However, by the end of the video, Roman still expressed willingness to listen to more discussions about the matter.

ANO NGA BA ANG STAND KO TUNGKOL SA BATAAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT? Panoorin po ninyo ito para malaman ang aking sagot. ❤️#SerbisyongMayPuso#BNPP

Posted by Geraldine Roman on Friday, October 2, 2020

2. The costs

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, raised concerns to the additional costs the government have to invest should the BNPP restart its operations again.

“Reviving BNPP will pose greater risks and costs on the environment as well as in the health and livelihood of our people,” Hontiveros said.

This was also echoed by some Filipinos who noted on the large amount of money needed for the facility’s rehabilitation.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

3. Lack of expertise and mismanagement

Several questions on social media are raised about on whether the Duterte administration is capable of managing the age-old property given past issues that suggested its lack of credibility in dealing with technical matters and procedures.

Screenshot by Interaksyon