Senators divided on revival of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

COURTESY CALL: Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III (6th from right), Senator Cynthia Villar (4th from right) and Senator Risa Hontiveros (3rd from right) pose for a souvenir photo with members of parliament of the European Parliamentary Forum (EFP) during a courtesy call at the Senate, Tuesday, August 23. Accompanied by representatives of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc., (PLCPD) in the Senate, the delegation is in Manila on a study tour. (MNS photo)

COURTESY CALL: Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III (6th from right), Senator Cynthia Villar (4th from right) and Senator Risa Hontiveros (3rd from right) pose for a souvenir photo with members of parliament of the European Parliamentary Forum (EFP) during a courtesy call at the Senate, Tuesday, August 23. Accompanied by representatives of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc., (PLCPD) in the Senate, the delegation is in Manila on a study tour. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Senators have opposing positions on the possibility of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) being revived to ensure the long-term supply of energy in the country.

At the hearing of the Senate committee on energy Wednesday, Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi said he was in favor of reviving the 620-megawatt nuclear plant, declaring that it was “safe for use.”

“I have a bias. If I will make a decision, I will open it but it’s not for me to decide, it’s for the country to decide,” Cusi told the committee.

While Cusi assured that we have sufficient supply, reviving the Bataan plant would beef up power reserves, lowering the risk of parts of the country being placed under yellow and red alerts as what happened in recent months.

“What we are trying to do is to have that reserve. We have to make that as a policy. Is that 5 percent of the demand, 10, 15 or 20 percent?” Cusi said.

“Napakanipis ng reserve. Pag nakuha ‘yun, we would have a stable supply. Yung yellow at red alert, hindi na pangangambahan ngayon ‘yun,” he added.

But Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the energy committee, opposed the plan, saying the needed $1-billion investment to refurbish the power plant would be better spent on “more feasible generation projects.”

Gatchalian added that the BNPP’s location atop a geological fault makes it a safety hazard for the entire Luzon island group.

He said the plant, built four decades ago, was simply outdated.

“At this point our country simply has not developed the necessary technical expertise to operate BNPP or any modern nuclear power plant in a safe and cost-efficient manner,” Gatchalian said.

For his part, Sen. JV Ejercito said he was in favor of DOE’s position in seriously considering reopening the plant, with it potentially being the cheapest source of energy.

“I was suprised that this is really in a very good condition…It’s owned by the taxpayers. Ang sa akin lang, why don’t we reconsider using it? It’s an asset worth billions and that’s just sitting there,” Ejercito said.

Sen. Richard Gordon said that while tapping nuclear power is unpopular, it was still an option worth considering, especially with the possible energy demand that comes with the country’s increasing growth rate.

“I don’t care if nuclear is unpopular….Ang importante satin dito, malaman nating mga senador ano ba ng down the line? You have a plethora of options. What are we doing to get power here?” Gordon said.

Sen. Nancy Binay said it was high time that the DOE make a final decision on the BNPP, whether or not it should be reopened or completely shut down.

Cusi said the DOE was “studying all options” available to them.

“The problem is that, what we have now – oil, diesel, natural gas, and coal – that has a limited life. Up to a certain time, the Malampaya, that will be over, that will be depleted by 2022 or 2024,” Cusi said.

“Now we’re looking double time to look for a replacement,” he said.(MNS)

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