Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

Satellite image of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong, Bataan

Arguably the Philippines’ biggest white elephant, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (Wikipedia) cost the country 2.3 billion U.S. dollars to construct, and remains unused to this day. This power plant was conceived by former President Marcos in response to the 1973 oil crisis and construction started in 1976 in Morong, Bataan. The facility was completed in May 1984 but the nuclear accident on Three Mile Island in 1979 and the devastating Chernobyl explosion in 1986 led President Cory Aquino to decide not to operate the plant. The BNPP is the country’s single biggest debt item and we have only finished paying the 2.3 billion in April 2007. But until now, we still pay the annual maintenance costs amounting to 50 million pesos.

Photo of the southeastern facade of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. © Jiru27, Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The biggest question regarding the fate of BNPP is whether we decide to operate it or not. One problem with starting to operate the power plant is that it will cost a further $1 billion (as if $2.3 billion is not enough) just to rehabilitate the facility and bring it up to new standards. BNPP’s design (circa 1970s) is considered pretty old and as the Fukushima disaster shows, even technologically-advanced Japan had big problems handling a nuclear accident. Anti-nuclear advocates say that the power plant is not safe to operate being located in a geologically active region (note that Mount Pinatubo, located less than 100 kilometers north, erupted in 1991, and is the second largest eruption of the 20th century) and the the Philippines is not equipped to handle a possible nuclear accident.

Pro-nuclear proponents say that nuclear power plants are still better because they provide cheap and clean electricity compared to coal and oil power plants, and that nuclear power plants are safer than fossil fuel plants, causing less accidents, deaths, and environmental effects. They say that comparisons to Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and even Fukushima are unfair as BNPP can be made much safer than these power plants—all of which started operating before or around the time BNPP started being constructed. The $1 billion cost to rehabilitate the power plant is about the same cost as constructing a new coal power plant and starting a nuclear power plant is more cost-effective in the long term than coal-fired power plants.

If you want to learn more, you can check out this Q&A article showing the views of the pro-nuclear side and there is a website for people against the BNPP. For now, the Bataan facility is a tourist attraction included in a tour of sites in Bataan.

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Posted on
July 28, 2013
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