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Alvarez: No to nuke plant

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:03:00 02/05/2009

Filed Under: Nuclear power, Alternative energy, Congress

MANILA, Philippines?Secretary Heherson Alvarez, the presidential adviser on climate change, has warned that a move in Congress to revive the $2.3-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is a ?Star Trek solution? that is fraught with danger.

According to Alvarez, he is not surprised that Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco has filed a bill seeking to rehabilitate the mothballed, martial-law era nuclear plant at a cost of $1 billion.

?He belongs to the Star Trek generation that wants a swift, highly scientific resolution to the energy problem. But that shift is full of potholes. There are many dangers,? he said in a phone interview.

It would be highly risky because of Filipinos? general lack of technology culture, particularly on the operation of a nuclear plant, and the lack of provisions for the proper disposal of nuclear wastes in the country, said Alvarez.

Radioactive wastes are lethal, and the air can only ?take so much of it,? he said.

Cojuangco?s bill has touched off a fresh debate over whether to reactivate the mothballed facility that became a symbol of the greed and corruption of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

The 630-megawatt plant was constructed in 1976 at an original cost of $500 million that ballooned to $2.3 billion because of the bribes that the plant?s builder, Westinghouse Electric Co., allegedly paid to Marcos.

After Marcos was toppled in 1986, the Corazon Aquino administration closed down the plant because of safety defects. It also sued Westinghouse for overpricing and bribery and sought the return of the money paid for the plant. The government lost the suit in a United States court in 1993.

In 2007, the Philippines finally paid off the cost of the plant at a final price tag of P2.3 billion.

Proposals for the country to take up the nuclear energy option have been made from time to time and a revival of the Bataan plant always comes up for discussion.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes himself supports the nuclear option to avert a potential energy crisis.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde on Wednesday said the issue of whether the country should go into nuclear power generation was still under study by the Department of Energy even as debate into the revival of the Bataan plant rages in Congress and the media.



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