BNPP: Concerns, issues, objections

Francisco Y. Arcellana Jr. - The Philippine Star

(First of two parts)

Recently, President Duterte signed an executive order, which in effect will start the rehabilitation and subsequent operation of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

Why do this less than two months before his term ends?

There are at least three unimpeachable objections to nuclear power plants as a source of power and electricity: 1. Huge expense in capitalization and throughout its operation up to the time the nuclear plant is decommissioned. 2. Safety concerns throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, including a nuclear accident. 3. The continuing problem of nuclear waste disposal.

In addition, there are safety concerns and economic non-viability issues peculiar to the BNPP.

To rehabilitate the BNPP, you shall have to first check the civil works and construction. You have to check the integrity of the concrete to make the containment dome but more importantly, you have to X-ray thousands of welds in the kilometers of pipes that make up the cooling system. In summary, this plant raised suspicions of shoddy construction and sloppy civil works. There were cost overruns, prolonged construction, corruption and alleged kickbacks.

Another grave safety concern peculiar to the BNPP is that it is situated in the Bataan peninsula on an earthquake fault beside Mt. Natib, one of thousands of volcanoes in our archipelago. Even a mild earthquake can crack the pipes in the cooling system and cause massive radioactive contamination. Our country is mostly limestone, which is porous. Any radioactivity can seep to our groundwater and contaminate one of the sources of our drinking water. It is beside the West Philippine Sea, so any tsunami can knock out the in situ diesel generators running the cooling system.

Nuclear power is NOT CHEAP. The BNPP was initially $200 million contracted to General Electric, then ballooned to $2.2 billion, with a shift of contract to Westinghouse.

We just finished paying for the BNPP about two years ago. To rehabilitate this plant, it will easily cost upwards of another $2 billion.

The fuel is imported. This will be very expensive because there is a worldwide shortage of uranium. It is coming only from a few countries like the US, South Africa, Namibia and Australia.

There are the hidden costs of intentional shutdowns for maintenance and unintentional shutdowns for repairs. Then there is the cost of a major accident.

Remember the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania? Several years ago, the cost of cleanup had reached $4 billion and they were not through yet.

And lastly, the cost of decommissioning would be another gargantuan hidden cost. This is when the natural life of nuclear power expires in 30 years. This is easily in the billions of dollars again.

(To be continued)


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