Wake Up, Philippines!

No active fault at BNPP – geologist

Posted in BNPP, Congress, Energy, Legislation by Erineus on March 16, 2009

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:18:00 03/08/2009

THE activation of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) can give the country cheap and consistent power in the years to come, according to a geologist at the University of the Philippines.

Dr. Carlos Arcilla, director of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS), said the BNPP was just standing idly and should be used to mitigate the effects of a looming power shortage and to bring the price of electricity down, which is one of the highest in Asia.

“Let’s think of what we can do with the power that can be produced by the BNPP. I hate expensive electricity and I’d like to see cheap electricity in households where the members won’t have to worry about their electrical bills,” he said.

In arguing for the activation of the plant, Arcilla revisited the objections to the BNPP, mostly dealing with safety.

Arcilla said he conducted last month a study of the ground below the plant and found no active fault.

Mt. Natib

He said the BNPP was built on the “flanks” of Mt. Natib. Even assuming that Mt. Natib erupts, the country already has the instrumentation to predict an impending eruption and give enough time to shut down the plant.

“Is it (Mt. Natib) active? Potentially, yes. But within the 60 years during which the plant will operate, the risk of an eruption is very small. Even Phivolcs is not monitoring Mt. Natib,” Arcilla said.

On the design of the BNPP, Arcilla noted that there were “carbon copies” of the plant operating in Korea and Taiwan since the 1980s without any accident. He also said that nuclear plants were built to withstand earthquakes and that the BNPP was unscathed after the 1990 temblor.

He said the mothballing of the plant came as a reaction to the meltdown of the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine. But Arcilla said US-designed power plants were far safer than their Russian counterparts.

He pointed to the Three Mile Island meltdown, where no one died, as proof that safety systems in a plant were effective in controlling a meltdown. “Among all power sources, nuclear power has the lowest rate of accidents,” he said.

Waste disposal

On a disposal site for nuclear waste, Arcilla pointed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico as a model for disposal of nuclear waste.

Arcilla issued a challenge. “Give me one island out of our 7,000 and I can find ways to store nuclear waste safely in the Philippines. Storing nuclear waste can be safe because there will be levels of barrier protection systems.”

Besides, Arcilla said the technology to safely store nuclear waste had not been fully explored. “It’s because of the social acceptability. We have this attitude of ‘not in my backyard.’ But if you take that out, then definitely we can come up with better ways of storing waste. The technology is already there,” he said.

On the cost, Arcilla said the BNPP could pay itself off in seven years.


“Even if the BNPP were to produce only 620 megawatts of the perceived 3,000 MW shortage in the next few years, it’s still 620 MW. Expensive electricity leads to more poverty,” he said.

Arcilla said he had an “open mind” and was also advocating the use of other power sources, like geothermal, solar, and wind. But he said building geothermal plants was expensive and power from solar and wind sources was not consistent enough for the country’s needs.

“If there is proof that the site is not geologically safe or that the plant already has defects, I’ll be the first to say ‘Let’s forget all about it.’ I won’t accept a nuclear plant that is not vetted for safety,” the geologist said.


Protest vs BNPP evokes EDSA scenes

Posted in BNPP, Congress, DOE, Energy, Entertainment, Legislation, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 24, 2009

BALANGA CITY, Philippines—Evoking scenes from the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, residents of Bataan and neighboring provinces clutched rosaries, carried images of the Virgin Mary and prayed as they marched here Monday in protest of a plan to reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) located in this city.

Meeting in front of St. Joseph Cathedral, nuns, tribal folk, environmental groups, students and parish leaders joined the protest in response to a call from Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas to block a bill reviving the facility built during the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos but later mothballed because of safety concerns and corruption issues.

Authored by Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, son of business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, with Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, eldest son of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as co-author, the measure seeks to revive the $2.3-billion BNPP purportedly to address the problem of global warming and an impending power crisis in the country by 2012.

“Let’s stand up for each other like we did at EDSA in 1986,” Villegas said, reading from a pastoral statement during Mass.

More than 15 priests concelebrated the Mass with Villegas, who had served as secretary to the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, one of the EDSA revolt’s major players.

Pope Benedict XVI and the late Pope John Paul II only advocated safe nuclear science for health purposes and for the welfare of humankind and nature, Villegas said.

He added that reputable geologists like Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo had advised against the nuclear plant’s revival because of the possibility of a volcanic eruption and an earthquake at the site, while Dr. Nicanor Perlas, an environmentalist, said the BNPP was built without experts monitoring its construction.

“All the priests and nuns here have stood up to the BNPP to give a voice to Bataan,” he said. “Our parishioners see it as a threat to their health and life.”

A separate rally was held Sunday by the international environmental organization Greenpeace, its affiliates and their families on the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

Greenpeace and the Network Opposed to BNPP have stepped up its campaign against the plant, urging congressmen to withdraw their signatures from House Bill 4631.

The alleged “undue haste” in the passing of the bill in the energy committee headed by Mikey Arroyo had also been questioned by critics. With a report from Nikko Dizon

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 05:33:00 02/24/2009


US scientist scolds pro-nuke lawmaker

Posted in BNPP, Energy, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 16, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—A US scientist admonished Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco for “dangerously misrepresenting” a scientific study in a bid to make the lawmaker’s proposal to reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) “look good.”

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said he was dismayed Cojuangco misused the 2005 study the American and two fellow scientists made.

“I am dismayed that our paper was cited by Cojuangco in his exploratory note. He is being ignorant of scientific data,” said Rodolfo.

Cojuangco authored a House bill seeking to revive the $2.3-billion BNPP mothballed over two decades ago.

A visibly angry Rodolfo, during a Friday conference on nuclear power at the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS), accused Cojuangco of “dangerously misrepresenting” the scientific study, which covered the geology of Subic Bay.

Rodolfo, also an adjunct professor at UP-NIGS and a staunch critic of nuclear energy, argued that the paper did not certify the safety of the area where the BNPP is located.

A heated exchange ensued during the open forum when Cojuangco tried to rebut Rodolfo’s accusations, saying that the rest of his proposed measure was based on solid scientific data.

Cojuangco also said that the bill was meant to ensure long-term availability of power in the country and reduce the effects of global warming.

But Rodolfo rebuked Cojuangco saying that the lawmaker should have understood the purpose of their paper, which studied geologic faults in Subic Bay and not Natib where the BNPP stands.

Rodolfo said his team even found by accident some geologic faults previously undetected. These could in fact cause some danger to surrounding areas of Subic, which includes Natib, some 10 kilometers away, he said.

“What you’re doing is cherry-picking arguments that would make your proposal look good,” Rodolfo said.

Trying to calm down, Cojuangco finally apologized to Rodolfo and said he would amend his bill. “I’m going to try to put amendments in my explanatory note that you are anti-nuclear.”

Rodolfo also posted online a statement about the alleged misuse of the study.

MOTHBALLED NUKE PLANT: Debate heats up anew over BNPP revival

Posted in BNPP, Congress, Energy, Legislation, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 3, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—The arguments had been heard before like a broken record.

They were raised again on Monday as Congress began debates on a bill that seeks to revive, at the cost of another $1 billion, the $2.3-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) mothballed over two decades ago.

First, said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and geologist Kelvin Rodolfo, comprehensive studies on the safety, technical and financial aspects of the plant should be made by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

They said at the hearing of the House committee on appropriations that the bill initiated by Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco was premature.

“There should be a study of the site, led by Phivolcs, a study by geologists with no conflict of interest,” said Rodolfo, a professor at University of Illinois and University of the Philippines.

Rodolfo said the location of the plant was “geologically dangerous.”

“Bataan and the entire Philippines are too tectonically and volcanically active,” he said.

He said the Phivolcs had not examined the safety of the region. He added that just because nothing happened to the plant during the powerful earthquake that hit Luzon in 1990 did not mean that the plant was safe, pointing out it was not operational at the time.

Rodolfo pointed out that the plant was close to Mt. Natib, a dormant volcano that has the possibility of erupting.

If proponents of the nuclear plant say the country is wrong to rely on Saudi oil, then it is also not right for the Philippines to rely on foreign sources for uranium, he said.

“There is only so much uranium in the world. It is depleted rapidly,” Rodolfo said.

Lagman said he had not seen a feasibility study on the project and suggested that the Cojuangco bill be transformed into one that would undertake a thorough review of the plant that would show that objections before could be surmounted.

Among those who countered Cojuangco’s proposals were Greenpeace, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, professor Giovanni Tapang and engineer Roberto Verzola.

Cost likely to go up

Etta Rosales of the Freedom from Debt Coalition questioned the projected $1-billion cost for the plant’s rehabilitation, saying the amount was likely to balloon to meet technical and safety demands, not to mention the costs of corruption.

Construction of the plant began in 1976, in the aftermath of the first Middle East oil embargo. The original cost was $500 million, but it ballooned to $2.3 billion by the time it was completed in 1984 under the regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Following the ouster of Marcos in the 1986 People Power Revolution and apprehensions caused by the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in the Soviet Union in the spring of that year, the Corazon Aquino administration closed the plant. It also sued Westinghouse for overpricing and bribery, but a US court threw out the suit.

The debt on the plant, the country’s largest single obligation, was finally paid in April 2007, but the 620-megawatt facility with its nuclear reactor intact never generated a single watt of electricity. An earlier study revealed that the plant had over 2,000 defects.

Carlos Arcilla, a University of the Philippines professor and director of the National Institute of Geological Sciences, said that there had been no evidence in the past 20 years that there was a fault in the plant’s vicinity.

Not a nuclear bomb

“A nuclear plant is not a nuclear bomb. There’s no fear the nuclear plant will become a nuclear bomb,” Arcilla said.

Cojuangco argued that there was a pressing need to recommission the BNPP because of the looming power shortage by 2012 would result in 24-hour brownouts in Metro Manila and result in great economic dislocation.

Getting the BNPP up and running would also translate to lower power costs. At present, he said, the high price of electricity has been repelling investors.

As for the safety concerns, Cojuangco said that if the BNPP were rehabilitated to its original specifications, “it is a safe plant according to current international atomic standards of the power generating industry.”

Cojuangco said that South Korea and Japan had several power plants, and Japan had many fault lines at that. “If it’s OK in Japan, why would it not be OK in the Philippines?”

Ramon Pedrosa, chair emeritus of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said he regretted working for the shuttering of the BNPP and was now supporting its recommissioning.

“For 22 years, we’re paying the high price for not using the BNPP … let this be the start of a true sovereign energy program,” Pedrosa said.

‘Faulty economics’

Around 30 members of the environment group Greenpeace massed outside Congress carrying an 8-foot-tall tombstone on which was written “R.I.P. BNPP” and denouncing the project as “grotesquely expensive and based on faulty economics.”

Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director, called the Cojuangco bill a “farce.”

Hernandez explained that the program may include the “possible commissioning of subsequent nuclear plants to justify the program’s existence. This presents a “greater and sustained drain on the country’s financial resources on top of the upfront cost of the BNPP rehabilitation itself.”

“The overwhelming safety and security reasons behind why the BNPP was mothballed remain just as valid and unassailable today. Our lawmakers should heed reason and let the BNPP rest in peace,” said Greenpeace campaigner Amalie Obusan.

In Balanga City, some 100 farmers, fishermen and students also marched Monday on the provincial capitol, demanding that Bataan officials reject the program. With reports from Amy R. Remo in Manila; and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; Agence France-Presse