Cusi defends nuke plant revival
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi defended on Wednesday the government’s plan to revive the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) to meet the Philippines’ energy needs, with forecast demand and reserve requirement expected to double at 30,189 megawatts (MW) by 2030.
Speaking at a hearing of the Senate committee on energy, Cusi said reopening the 620-MW nuclear power plant was among the options that the energy department was pursuing to ensure long-term energy stability along with other power sources.
“Based on my knowledge, based on what I’ve seen, based on what I studied, based on the experience of other countries that we have heard, it is a good option for our country. It is safe to use,” said Cusi when pressed by Sen. Leila De Lima on the use of the BNPP.
“The hard fact is that even while nuclear power is unpopular, we’re looking at it, we’re studying it. It’s an option,” he told the hearing, which was chaired by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.
Cusi stressed that nuclear power was viable as it is cheap to produce and plants have greater longevity than other depletable sources such as natural gas and coal.
Located at a 357-hectare government reservation in Morong, Bataan and built at a cost of $2 billion, the BNPP never came on stream. It was completed in 1984 following a 10-year construction, although it was never opened on safety concerns because it was built on a site considered geologically hazardous near Mt. Pinatubo volcano.
Previous attempts to operate the more than 30-year-old facility spurred protests and never gained headway, and Cusi estimated that it would cost at least $1 billion to reopen the facility.
Manila spends P27 million pesos a year for its upkeep, the senate hearing was told.
Cusi argued that other sources of energy such as gas and coal were depletable, noting that the Malampaya offshore natural gas was expected to run out of supply by 2024.
“Coal and fuel has a lifespan. Nuclear power has a longer life, so we will have a more secure [supply]. The hard fact is that we know that nuclear power is not popular, but it is our responsibility to look at it and study it for nation-building,” he said, adding that Manila has been left out by its neighbors, such as Indonesia, in terms of nuclear power.
Cusi said reviving the plant would have to be studied and approved by the president. He was due to consult with experts on nuclear energy Wednesday night.
The current national energy supply is at 17,925 MW, sufficient for the demand of 13,500 MW. Cusi said the supply was at times compromised by unexpected outages and simultaneous maintenance shutdowns of powerplants, a situation that led to the supply shortage in Luzon a month ago.
The Church meanwhile reiterated its opposition on Wednesday to the plan, stressing that reviving the project puts the public at risk, especially those who live in the area.
“The whole province has accepted and agreed, no rehabilitation of BNPP. It is a closed case for us,” Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said. “We are against this and this will not change.”
Santos said the BNPP posed greater dangers than its promised benefits, and that those behind its revival were motivated by “profit or money” rather than by genuine concerns to provide cheap energy.
“We believe that energy can be generated from wind or from water of from the sun. That can be studied, tested, harnessed,” he said. “The BNPP damages life, livelihood and nature. The BNPP is not the answer to the present needs of the people. No one is safe from the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.”
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