THE GOVERNMENT must lay out contingency measures and environmental safeguards before reopening the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), a senator said on Tuesday.
In a statement, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian questioned the government’s ability to help about 30,000 citizens of Bataan province in case of a nuclear accident.
“We need to plan our response to an eventuality and check if we have the capability to respond to such an incident,” the head of the Senate energy committee said in Filipino.
The senator cited the evacuation of 100,000 residents around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Japan nine years ago when a tsunami disabled the facility’s nuclear reactors. Residents managed to return home only last year.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week told the Department of Energy (DoE) to consult Bataan residents about the plan to revive the plant.
In July, he ordered various agencies led by the Energy department to evaluate the viability of nuclear power as a long-term energy option.
“In discussing the potential of nuclear power in our energy mix, the inherent risks to public welfare and its viability as a long-term solution to ensure stability of supply should be elucidated clearly to all stakeholders, most especially to the residents of Bataan,” Mr. Gatchalian said.
The 620-megawatt Bataan nuclear plant was built during the administration of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, and was shut down in 1986 due to alleged corruption and safety concerns. It was completed in the 1980s but was never used.
Construction started in 1976 and was stopped after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US in 1979.
A safety inquiry into the plant revealed more than 4,000 defects. Among the issues raised was that it was built near a major geological fault line and close to the then dormant Mount Pinatubo in central Luzon.
By 1984, when the plant was nearly complete, its cost had reached P2.3 billion. Debt repayment of the plant had been the country’s biggest single obligation.
Mr. Gatchalian said more laws are needed to address environmental concerns on nuclear wastes and public safety.
The Philippines should look at renewable energy sources instead of trying to revive the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Bataan Rep. Geraldine B. Roman said on Monday.
The trend worldwide is to do away with nuclear energy and turn to renewable sources of energy, she said.
The Energy department has sought a P92.3-billion budget for repairs on the nuclear plant under state-owned National Power Corp.’s budget for next year. — Adam J. Ang