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Ex-lawmaker renews call to revive Bataan nuclear plant

MANILA, Philippines - Former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco renewed yesterday his call to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) after the plant turned 30 years old last week.

He said the National Power Corp.’s  Quarterly Progress Report No. 32 for the period ending 30 June 1984 showed that on May 28, 1984 the BNPP had its first major project milestone, producing five megawatts of electricity for the first time during its testing.

If activated, the BNPP is capable of producing 620MW of power, he said, adding that the country needs 14 incremental gigawatts (GW) by 2030 to cope with the growing economy.

The nuclear plant was mothballed amid safety concerns and reports that dictator Ferdinand Marcos received about $80 million in kickbacks from builder Westinghouse.

Opponents of the proposal warn that the BNPP sits near an earthquake fault. The cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in Japan revived fears around the globe about the safety of nuclear power plants, with the technologically advanced nation until now unable to contain toxic leak from the Fukushima reactor. (See related story on A-17.)

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, countries such as Germany have started phasing out nuclear power plants.

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“Thirty years have passed and the doomsayers’ predictions did not come. As yet, BNPP has not been blown down by the many typhoons that have come and gone, not destroyed by the strongest quakes that have passed, not buried by Pinatubo’s fury, not swallowed up by the earth,” Cojuangco said in a statement.

He said Filipinos fully paid $2.1 billion for BNPP in August 2007 and yet have not benefited from it even in the midst of a power crisis like that being experienced today.

Cojuangco claimed the BNPP is not the white elephant that critics would want people to believe but rather a safe, clean, and cheap source of electricity.

He insisted that nuclear power could become the cheapest source of electricity in the Philippines.

Nuclear-powered Japan, however, has the highest electricity cost in Asia.

“Hydro is not used for baseload power, it is used for peaking power, which we pay a premium for because peaking power is really very expensive,”
Cojuangco said.

He said according to the World Nuclear Association, nuclear power capacity worldwide is increasing steadily, with over 60 reactors under construction in 13 countries and most reactors on order or planned are in the Asian region.

Cojuangco said the BNPP is newer than almost 70 percent of the 104 running nuclear reactors in the US, and its turbine and generator are lubricated and turned for an hour religiously once every month up to now.

He said it only takes three to four years and $1 billion to get BNPP running.

“The same price and timeframe for a new, same sized, coal plant, and yet it will bring power at less than half the cost and will still make profit. A bargain indeed,” Cojuangco said.

 

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