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EDITORIAL - Going nuclear

EDITORIAL - Going nuclear

(The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2020 - 12:00am

As if the country didn’t have enough disasters, certain quarters still haven’t given up on harnessing nuclear power for electricity. The idea is to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, built during the Marcos dictatorship. The BNPP was mothballed after the 1986 people power revolt because of a corruption scandal and safety concerns arising from the fact that it sits on an earthquake fault connected to the dormant Mount Natib volcano in Bataan.

A report this year placed the cost of reviving the BNPP, as estimated by a foreign group, at $3 billion to $4 billion. Reviving it will go against a trend in other countries to reduce nuclear power in their energy mix, because of safety concerns in the power plants as well as the risks posed by nuclear waste, which remains radioactive and cannot be destroyed or recycled.

One argument given by proponents is that nuclear power can provide cheaper energy. But Japan relies heavily on nuclear power for its energy needs, yet it is competing with the Philippines for the most expensive electricity in the Asia-Pacific.

And Japan has yet to fully recover from the meltdown of its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor when the northeastern part of the country was flattened on March 11, 2011 by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that spawned a tsunami with killer waves up to 40.5 meters high. Japan is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire and is hit regularly by powerful earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis that have killed thousands.

Like Japan, the Philippines sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Before the start of this year’s pandemic, Taal Volcano’s powerful phreatic explosion emptied surrounding communities, displaced thousands and blanketed towns and cities all the way to Metro Manila with toxic, suffocating ash. Earthquakes and aftershocks continue to be recorded in Taal, with seismologists warning of the possibility of a cataclysmic eruption.

If the BNPP is revived, at great cost to a cash-strapped government, what happens if Mount Natib also acts up, or if an earthquake hits Bataan? If all the proponents of nuclear energy will live together with their immediate families near the BNPP – and not just for show, buying a house nearby while the kids live in an exclusive village far from harm’s way – then by all means, go ahead with the project.

NUCLEAR
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