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Nuclear power gains outweigh costs – expert

The Philippine Star
Nuclear power gains outweigh costs â expert
Speaking with “The Chiefs” over Cignal TV’s One News last Wednesday night, PNRI executive director Carlo Arcilla said it would only take a few years to recover the amount spent to build a nuclear power plant.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — While the initial investment needed to build and operate a nuclear power plant is high, the country’s gain in the long run is still expected to outweigh the cost, the head of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) said.

Speaking with “The Chiefs” over Cignal TV’s One News last Wednesday night, PNRI executive director Carlo Arcilla said it would only take a few years to recover the amount spent to build a nuclear power plant.

The cost, he said, could reach up to $12 billion (about P678 billion) in some Western countries due to issues such as delay. But he said South Korea can build nuclear power plants for as low as $5 billion (P283 billion) “on time and at cost.”

“It may be expensive in the beginning, but nuclear power plants like in America, they are lasting now 60 years and they have been licensed for another 20 years, so that’s 80 years compared to coal plants (that can only operate for just) 20 years,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“So, in the long run, it is worth it,” he added.

Arcilla also said that South Korea was able to recover in six years its investment on nuclear plants similar to the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

The BNPP was constructed during the administration of President Marcos’ father, but it was not used due to corruption issues and safety concerns.

Earlier, Arcilla said South Korea is offering to rehabilitate the BNPP for around $1 billion to $2 billion (P56.6 billion to P113 billion).

He said the cost of fuel needed to operate BNPP is only $30 million for 18 months, compared to $600 to $800 million needed to keep a coal plant running for the same period.

“The investment will be recovered in the fuel savings alone and you don’t have the emissions,” he said.

Asked why nuclear power only constitutes a small portion of the world’s power mix, Arcilla said it could be attributed to a negative perception, particularly on safety.

But he allayed such concerns raised by those opposing the establishment of a nuclear plant in the Philippines, saying numerous assessments would be made to ensure its safety.

“There would be exclusion principles. First, is there an active volcano? If there is, then the area would be ruled out. How close it is to the active fault?... Tsunami, flood. All of those will be evaluated,” he said.

“If they don’t pass those physical constraints, the plant will not be built. That’s why in the Philippine, one of the best places to build a nuclear plant is Palawan because there are no earthquakes and volcanoes and they need the power,” he added.

In the case of the BNPP, he noted that it was not affected despite the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 and the earthquakes that hit in Luzon since it was built.

Arcilla said the nuclear plant was built to withstand strong earthquakes, including the so-called Big One, which experts previously warned about.

The BNPP is also built on a higher elevation, ruling out a meltdown caused by a tsunami similar to what happened at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in 2011.

While renewable energy sources are ideal, Arcilla said these are currently not enough to supply the global energy requirement.

“It’s a mix that has to be done and they should not pit nuclear versus renewables,” he added.

Earlier, Marcos sought a partnership with France on nuclear energy. The matter was also discussed during the recent visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris in the country.

PNRI

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