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Solons: BNPP study to block nuke plant rehab

Posted in Congress, Energy, Environment, Legislation, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on March 6, 2009

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
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.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/topstories/topstories/view/20090305-192512/Solons-BNPP-study-to-block-nuke-plant-rehab

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.

Public to pay for BNPP revival—solons

Posted in DOE, Energy, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 11, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The public will partly shoulder the cost of reviving the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) that is being pushed at the House of Representatives as an alternative and cheaper source of energy for the country.

House Bill 4631 or the “Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Commissioning Act of 2008″, authored by Representative Mark Cojuangco, intends to raise as much as $1 billion, to be sourced from the 10-centavo per kilowatt hour surcharge of the total electric power generated and which would be collected from consumers and international or domestic loans.

On Tuesday’s hearing at the House of Representatives, members of the committee on appropriation engaged anew in debates on the funding for the plant’s rehabilitation, decommissioning, and commercial operation.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman questioned why funds should be sourced from the General Appropriations Act, or the annual budget, to be able to operate the plant again.

Cojuangco agreed to delete that contentious portion, but maintained that Section 22 of the bill, which provides the 10 centavos surcharge and the loans, should stay.

“Section 22 is still unacceptable because of the surcharge and the international and domestic loan agreements. The surcharge will be levied to consumers even before the plant starts running. … We heard from the Department of Finance that the government is still financing for the principal and interest of the BNPP . . . it’s not even fully paid for. . . . So it would be like throwing good money after bad,” Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros told the committee.

Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño said removing the section of the source of the funding would be “deceptive and misleading” since it would still be the government that would impose the 10-centavo surcharge.

And when government borrows, Casiño said that payments would be made through automatic appropriations, which would, in effect, mean getting the money from the annual budget.

Cojuangco countered that having the plant as a source of energy would save the public P2 per kilowatt hour. And shelling out a measly 10 centavos per kilowatt hour would make the consumers owners of the plant.

With the P2 per kilowatt hour savings, the consumers will save at least P9 billion annually, Cojuangco added.

The committee will hold another hearing to vote on the “appropriation language” of the bill, but Hontiveros vowed to block it, saying the revival of the plant will need further study.

Pope against nuke for power

Posted in DOE, Energy, Graft and Corruption, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 11, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—It appears the pope and another ranking Vatican official were misquoted on the use of nuclear energy by a local politician.

Pope Benedict XVI supports the use of nuclear energy but only for improving the medical field and helping the poor but not for generating electricity, Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas said Tuesday.

In an e-mail to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Villegas refuted Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco’s claim the Pope and Renato Cardinal Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, supported the use of nuclear energy to produce electricity.

“This is not about nuclear power for electricity generation but nuclear science to promote medicine and help the poor and the sick,” Villegas said.

The bishop highlighted the part of the Pope’s statement made in July 2007 where he said “to support the use of peaceful and safe nuclear technology for authentic development, respecting the environment and ever mindful of the most disadvantaged populations, is always more present and urgent.”

“The statement is not about nuclear power plants but nuclear science for the benefit of medicine. The perennial question about storage and disposal of nuclear waste is still unresolved and poses a threat to the environment which the Pope warns about,” Villegas said.

Vatican statements

Cojuangco is campaigning to have the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant opened and has a bill pending in Congress to do just that.

Villegas, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo have condemned the plan.

On Monday, Cojuangco visited the Inquirer offices and, quoting Pope Benedict on the 50th anniversary of the International Atomic Energy Agency in July 2007, said the Vatican fully approved and supported the IAEA’s mandate “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.”

The lawmaker also quoted from Cardinal Martino’s statement which followed the Pope’s message: “Nuclear power could be part of a balanced energy mix alongside forms of clean energy. With maximum safety requirements in place for people and the environment and with a ban in place on the hostile use of nuclear energy, why should the peaceful use of nuclear technology be barred?”

Using the statements from the Vatican, Cojuangco said he was able to convince Cruz (but not Villegas as earlier reported) to be open to the possibility of having the BNPP put into operation.

Villegas said Cardinal Martino’s statement was made in the context of the situation in Italy and not in the Philippines.

“The commendation of nuclear power was based on two premises: First, that maximum safety requirements are in place and, second, that the ban on the hostile use of nuclear energy be in place. Is the first premise present in the Bataan nuclear power plant? Geologists and nuclear experts say otherwise,” Villegas said.

“This comment was made in the context of Italy. The Philippine geological context is certainly very different. The corruption situation in the Philippines is so bad that corrupt politicians are very likely to make money again from the rehabilitation,” he said.

By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:03:00 02/11/2009

Shift to CFLs, avert 2nd BNPP disaster

Posted in DOE, Energy, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 11, 2009

Recent environmental disasters around the world have only succeeded in driving home the urgency of addressing climate change and global warming — and the food security problem in their wake. Note the rampaging floods in Australia’s northeast and the killer bush fires in the south, the severe drought in central China and the snowstorms that recently battered the United Kingdom. These natural calamities are being blamed on climate change.

In an interview we taped for radio dzRH this Sunday at 8 p.m., Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change Heherson Alvarez stressed that increasingly severe natural disasters and the see-sawing of oil prices make it more imperative than ever to develop clean, renewable energy sources. But he also pointed out a most encouraging development: the successful founding conference and first session of the preparatory commission of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Bonn, with the Philippines as one of the signatories.

After four years of global negotiations led by Germany, world leaders finally agreed to create this new international agency to push the development and use of renewable, climate and resource-friendly technologies throughout the world, such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass energy. IRENA will act as a reliable advisor and partner for its members, networking closely with them, in the realization that, to quote Germany’s Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “only with global structures can the world achieve secure and sustainable energy supply.”

* * *

Alvarez says Germany comes with good credentials to lead these efforts, and the Philippines, which is now being tempted to flirt not only with nuclear energy as a concept but with operating the defect-riddled “Monster of Morong,” could learn a lot from it. He notes that Germany is the world’s biggest user of wind energy, with 18,000 installed wind turbines contributing 6 percent to its total electric power.

Germany also accounts for 39 percent of the world’s total power from wind energy. It’s surpassing even the US in terms of producing power from renewable sources and is fast closing in on Japan as a leader in the use of solar power as well. Together, wind and solar energy provide more than 10 percent of Germany’s electricity and this is expected to double by 2020.

What’s good for developing countries like the Philippines to remember is that, as presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain repeatedly stressed in their campaign, there are plentiful jobs in these new energy forms. In Germany 60,000 people are employed in the design and manufacture of equipment for wind and solar energy.

* * *

Alvarez joined the delegation led by Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, armed with Republic Act 9513, the Renewable Energy Act, signed last month by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and said to be the most comprehensive renewable energy law in Southeast Asia. It aims to accelerate the exploration and development of renewable energy sources.

Right now, there’s the Bangui Bay Project in Ilocos Sur province, the first commercial capacity wind farm not just in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia, with a 33 megawatt-capacity equivalent to the reduction of 62,951 tons of greenhouse emission gases per year. Moreover, the Philippine delegation carried President Arroyo’s support for an 80-percent reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, first expounded by Alvarez at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan last December.

* * *

For the Philippines, the founding of IRENA is timely. As Alvarez puts it, “Hopefully it would draw us away from the temptation of using ‘Star Trek’-like technologies’ like nuclear power, and develop instead alternative energy sources of which we have a lot.” Speaking of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which a group of House members wants to operate without considering its state of unfitness, Alvarez opines that if the nation were to shift to CFL bulbs for light, which is a $31-million project now being implemented by the Department of Energy through a loan from the Asian Development Bank, about 500 megawatts of electricity would be saved each year, which is nearly equal to the BNPP’s capacity, but without the problems of site dangers, expensive fuel, waste disposal, decommissioning, etc. I suggest that Alvarez begin his campaign for renewable energy in homes, schools, offices, civic clubs and the media with the punch-line: “A shift to CFLs helps avert BNPP’s second disaster. “

* * *

Last Tuesday, I wrote about the Cebu-based Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WIL) which has undertaken the “aesthetic enhancement” of the Cebu City landscape. Their major project is to clean up and restore Colon Street, the country’s oldest street, founded by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Networking with the old families in Colon, WIL put up 52 historical markers that are now part of its “Heritage Walking Tour,” at a cost of P15,000 per marker with lamppost.

An example is the marker in front of Mariano Albao Cuenco’s residence, Imprenta Rosario, which details how he founded the Cuenco newspaper dynasty with his “Ang Camatuoran” (The Truth). With Mariano’s early death in 1909, his widow, Doña Remedios Diosomito Cuenco, took over the family printing press on the ground floor of their Sanciangco Street residence and reared children who became publishers in their own right: the future Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco, the future Sen. Mariano Jesus Cuenco and Rep. Miguel Cuenco. From this clan also sprang Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco.

Intramuros could also use similar markers memorializing the lives and achievements of many illustrious families who resided in the Walled City, never mind if World War II destroyed virtually all their homes.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:51:00 02/12/2009