Politics

Philippine president orders revival of nuclear power strategy


The Philippines plans to revive its mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Not all think that’s a good idea The Philippines plans to reimplement a nuclear power programme – which has been abandoned in 1986 in the wake of the deadly Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine – in order to add atomic energy to its power mix, local media reported. The country’s president Rodrigo Duterte has signed a respective executive order on February 28 as part of the preparation for the phasing out of coal-fired power plants. The plan has been on the table for years amid persistent…

The Philippines plans to revive its mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Not all think that’s a good idea

The Philippines plans to reimplement a nuclear power programme – which has been abandoned in 1986 in the wake of the deadly Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine – in order to add atomic energy to its power mix, local media reported.

The country’s president Rodrigo Duterte has signed a respective executive order on February 28 as part of the preparation for the phasing out of coal-fired power plants. The plan has been on the table for years amid persistent electricity shortages across the country 

The order, made public on March 3, could be a major milestone for an economy which not only suffers frequent power outages, but also has the highest electricity prices in the region, observers said. But a reopening would also concern opponents of the move, they added.

Revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant?

The main focus of the programme is to seek ways to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Bataan province just 100 kilometers west of Metro Manila. The plant was built between 1976 and 1985 on order of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos but was never commissioned as opposition against nuclear energy grew in the Philippines after the catastrophe at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986. Marcos was ousted in the same year.

Construction of the plant costed $2.2 billion and plans were to generate 623 megawatts of electricity. But the project was heavily criticised for being a potential threat to public health, especially since the plant was in an earthquake zone near a volcano.

“Viable alternative power source” Duterte

But Duterte said reopening the power plant would be a “milestone” for the country to address the power shortages and high electricity prices. He argued that nuclear power would be tapped as a “viable alternative baseload power source” as the Philippines seeks to retire coal plants to help meet climate goals.

Philippine energy secretary Alfonso Cusi also openly expressed his support of nuclear power, saying that it was “really safe” and that it would help the Philippines achieve energy security.

“The Filipino people spent billions for this unused project,” he added, referring to the Bataan plant.

“Why not use it so that we have an additional source of energy that will also make our electricity much cheaper?” he said.

Outdated technology, crumbling structure

However, experts said that reactivating the Bataan power plant is highly risky if not impossible as its technology is outdated and the structure is crumbling after 36 years of standing idle. Only since 2009, it has operated as a tourist attraction and technology museum, helping defray the cost of maintaining it.

If ever, a new nuclear power plant in the Philippines should be planned from scratch at today’s technology and safety standard, they noted.

However, the late dictator’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who is the front-runner in the May presidential election, has said he plans to “revisit” the Bataan nuclear power project, without elaborating.



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