Solons: BNPP study to block nuke plant rehab
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 17:17:00 03/05/2009
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers opposed to the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) said Thursday they had succeeded in inserting a “killer amendment” they predict will block the rehabilitation and reopening of the facility anytime soon.
The committee on appropriations approved a proposal by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman to allocate P100 million to undertake a feasibility study on the nuclear plant’s rehabilitation that the lawmaker predicted would “validate structural defects, safety risks and ecological hazards of the BNPP, which led to its mothballing in 1986.”
Akbayan party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros said the approval of the amendment “practically killed” House Bill 4631, authored by Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco, which seeks the immediate rehabilitation and operation of the 620-megawatt nuclear plant.
”Whatever the result of the feasibility study is, it will require a new bill. The nuke plant is not yet dead, but we have put it once again in the freezer. We will kill it in due time,” she said.
In Cojuangco’s bill, the P100 million would have been used to validate, in a two-stage process, whether the BNPP could still operate.
But Lagman’s approved proposal would use the money “for the conduct and completion of a validation or feasibility study to determine the viability of rehabilitating, commissioning and commercially operating the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) as a nuclear facility, taking into consideration technical, safety, economic, financial and ecological concerns, and using as references previous feasibility studies conducted before and after the BNPP was mothballed in 1986.”
The Albay solon and Parañaque Representative Roil Golez had insisted that a feasibility study, and not just a validation process, was needed for the BNPP.
The appropriations committee, chaired by Quirino Representative Junie Cua, approved Lagman’s proposal and incorporated this in the “appropriation language” of HB 4631.
The P100 million is to be sourced from the Department of Energy and augmented by the National Power Corporation.
Cojuangco’s bill also seeks a $1-billion budget for the BNPP’s revival, to be sourced from the 10-centavo per kilowatt hour surcharge on total electric power generated collected from consumers, and from international or domestic loans.
After the hearing, Cojuangco found himself in a heated exchange of words with Nicanor Perlas, a technical consultant to a study commissioned in the 1990s by a Senate ad hoc committee and the Presidential Commission on the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant.
The $9.5-million study, which was conducted by 50 nuclear experts, found 40,000 defects in the plant.
But Cojuangco called the results of the study “lies.”
Perlas, who was standing with journalists interviewing Cojuangco, objected and asked that he be allowed to explain.
“Ini-interview ako rito, eh bigla kang sumisingit [I am being interviewed here, and you just cut in],” the lawmaker berated Perlas.
Perlas said he had to defend himself because Cojuangco had called him a liar.
The committee hearing was marked by debates early on, with Bataan Representative Albert Garcia saying the local government is vigorously opposed the nuclear plant’s revival.
Garcia said a provincial board resolution had been passed “signifying strong opposition to the immediate reopening, commissioning and commercial operation” of the plant. So had the Bataan mayors’ league, he said.
Golez said the opposition of the local community should be considered because “social engineering might be difficult if the local government is opposed to this.”
“They will make it very difficult to implement the project…No amount of vote[s] in this committee can surmount this local problem,” he said. ”I’d like to resolve this prejudicial problem.”
But Cua said the “matter of legislation should be left to legislators.”
Last week, Lagman, Hontiveros and Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III submitted a bill seeking to require the National Power Corporation to “conduct and complete a technical, economic, environmental, and financial feasibility study comparing technology options for electricity generation and appropriating funds thereof…”
The proposed study would not look at the viability of nuclear power but treat it as a possible source of energy.
It was envisioned as an alternative to Cojuangco’s bill.