By Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 7, 2017 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) is urging the government to support nuclear energy use and revive the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) to strengthen the country’s manufacturing sector.
Newly-appointed PNRI director Carlo Arcilla said, the rehabilitation of the 32-year-old power facility is viable and is a political decision that should come from the President himself.
“The promotion of nuclear energy is an important decision. We cannot go all out into manufacturing because of high power costs, and the cheapest cost and has no emission is through nuclear,” said Arcilla, professor of earth sciences at the University of the Philippines.
“I don’t want to promote nuclear energy on my own because part of the job is regulation. But as research, I will definitely push for it. I will just wait for directives but we have to understand that a small amount of nuclear fuel is equal to several tons of coal and the plant will just be powered once every one and a half years,” he added.
Should the government decide to go nuclear, Arcilla said there should be an independent regulatory nuclear agency and an effective management of nuclear waste.
“PNRI has to split from the DOST (Department of Science and Technology). This is the model in all countries that have nuclear, they have independent regulation. In terms of waste, I have been studying for the past years about the geologic disposal of nuclear waste,” he said.
Furthermore, Arcilla dismissed claims the plant is within an earthquake zone and that a volcano formation was found near the location of the plant, prompting the closure of the BNPP.
“There’s no fault or volcano beneath the plant. I have done my own research and I’m willing to debate on that. Those two are baseless. The reason is political and giving pseudo scientific reasons is something that I don’t like,” he said.
He added the Philippines could also look at how Korea operates its own, an exact copy of the BNPP.
“We have an exact working model with Korea and until now it is still operating. They managed to build four more because of profits. I really believe that it can be rehabilitated and further developed. The plant is already there, why not utilize and use it?” he said.
The Philippines spent $1.2 billion for the construction of the plant alone and is paying around $200,000 per day less than 10 years ago due to the non-usage of the nuclear plant.
BNPP was built during the Marcos regime but was not operated when late president Corazon Aquino took over the presidency.
It was supposed to replace the ageing electric plants at that time, but because of the shutdown, there were widespread brownouts during the late 80s and early 90s.