The Manila Times : BBM backs BNPP, Leody for renewable, clean energy

6 March 2022

By Catherine S. Valente and Franco Jose C. Baroña | The Manila Times

TWO presidential hopefuls presented divergent views on the country's use of nuclear power, following President Rodrigo Duterte's signing of an executive order adopting a nuclear energy program for the country.

Part of Executive Order (EO) 64, which Duterte signed last week, is a recommendation to revive the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

Former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is keen on reviving the BNPP if he becomes president, his spokesman Victor Rodriguez said on Saturday.

"We welcome the signing of Executive Order (EO) 164 by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that seeks to provide our country a reliable, secure, sustainable, quality and affordable electricity supply in line with the vision of presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said Marcos believes that "with 79 percent of our countrymen who have expressed approval or acceptability on the possible use or rehabilitation of the BNPP, decisions to be made from hereon must be based on practicality, follow the science and not make it an emotional or political issue."

Meanwhile Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) standard-bearer Leodegario "Ka Leody" de Guzman on Saturday said nuclear energy was not the solution to the looming power crisis in the country and will only exacerbate problems on environment and public finances.

According to the labor leader, many studies have warned of the dangers from this energy source, as he recalled the "tragedies at Chernobyl and Fukushima" and "the issue of radioactive waste."

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine. It is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history both in cost and casualties. The Fukushima nuclear disaster was a 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan. The cause of the disaster was the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011.

De Guzman said despite his confidence in Filipino scientists, he believes it will take a long time to reach the technical knowledge and material capacity to make nuclear power generation safe.

He said the energy source of a nuclear power plant is uranium, which the Philippines still need to import. He said this will have a major impact on the country's supply of dollar reserves and will also be affected by sudden movements in foreign exchange rates.

At the same time, de Guzman stressed that it is also expensive to build nuclear plants like the BNPP, from which the government resorted to large-scale borrowing.

De Guzman said for cheaper, cleaner and faster construction of facilities for power generation, the government should lead and encourage renewable energy.

He said wind and solar power is free and there is no need to transport from abroad and these do not create wastes. Furthermore, the construction of wind turbines and solar panels are faster than a nuclear plant, he added.

De Guzman suggested that the Renewable Energy Law must be followed and further expanded for "a safe, sustainable, and affordable energy source."

The Renewable Energy Act of 2008 or RA 9513 was passed in December 2008 to affirm the government's commitment to accelerate the utilization of renewable energy resources in the country. This is to effectively reduce harmful emissions and achieve economic development while protecting health and environment.

The BNPP was the only nuclear power plant in the region during the 1980s as the Philippines was one of the first Southeast Asian countries to embark on a nuclear energy program.

However, the project was mothballed because of corruption allegations and safety concerns on the use of nuclear energy.

A study conducted by Russia State Atomic Energy Corp. in 2017 said the rehabilitation of BNPP will require from $3 billion to $4 billion.