Scientists slam Marcos Jr’s plan to review BNPP project revival

AGHAM recommends ‘sustainable, safe, accessible, affordable and reliable’ energy sources instead

A science and technology group refuted president-elect Ferdinand Marco’s Jr’s pronouncement that a refurbished Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) may prevent an energy crisis and may even usher in rapid industrialization in the country.

AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology said that the supply of electricity is not the most pressing problem in the country but its cost to the consumers—the most expensive in Southeast Asia.

“The current energy crisis is a result of the liberalized policy implemented since the 1990’s that allowed the privatization of our energy facilities and deregulation of the energy industry,” AGHAM said.

“This led to relentless increase in the cost of electricity, unstable power supply, and further increased our dependency to imported fossil fuel such as coal. The 621-megawatt nuclear plant will not resolve the above problem but will further aggravate it,” the group added.

AGHAM said private ownership of electricity generation, transmission and retailing in the country has driven its cost unjustly high.

“As long as the [privatization] policy…will not be reversed, private and foreign corporations will continue to monopolize our industry for their own interest and profit, and industrializing the Philippines is not part of it,” AGHAM said.

Reopening the BNPP in the framework of a liberalized energy industry will not serve its purpose of providing lower cost of electricity and it will not redound to industrialization, the scientists said.

Peddling to foreign investors

The group reacted to a pronouncement made by the president-elect after his meeting with South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Kim Inchul last week.

Marcos Jr said that he is reviewing earlier recommendations made to revive the BNPP.

“We discussed with the South Korean ambassador their offer and their nuclear power expert has already visited the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, to see what else could be done, whether or not it could be revived or if a new one should be built,” Marcos said.

“We revived the discussion. Although they have come before, we will now study their recommendation, their findings and we will see if we can still apply,” he added.

Earlier, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) said the BNPP can be rehabilitated in four to five years at a cost of about $1.0 billion.

AGHAM however slammed the pronouncement, saying Marcos is already peddling the project to foreign investors even before assuming the presidency.

“[He] denies the fact that the BNPP is already antiquated, faulty, dangerous and has served as a milking cow for corrupt practices. The risk of allowing an old facility with around 4,000 technical defects to operate would be high. It is also crucial for the government to present concrete for the disposal of spent uranium fuel,” it said.

The BNPP was constructed under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos Sr that cost Filipino taxpayers a total of $2.2 billion.

The succeeding Corazon Aquino government mothballed the BNPP, citing massive corruption in the project.

In June 2021, the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed a Sandiganbayan decision finding corruption in the BNPP project and ordered Marcos crony Herminio Desini’s estate to pay the Philippine government PHP1 billion in exemplary damages.

Desini brokered the USD2.2-billion BNPP project to American nuclear power company Westinghouse Electrical Corporation.

FACT CHECK: Marcos Jr. claims politics behind mothballing of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

Enough supply

AGHAM said a nuclear power plant is unnecessary, asserting the country still has enough power supply.

“In 2020, the country has an installed capacity of 26,250 megawatts (MW) with a dependable capacity of 23,410 MW while the peak demand is just 15,282 MW in the same period. We have more than enough in the coming years,” it said.

The group said the Philippines has other energy options that are sustainable, safe, accessible, affordable and reliable to address expected power demand of the country.

“While we recognize the fact that nuclear energy is a technology option, it is not a good option and the country can do without it. We should give more weight to the safety and lives of our people, environmental costs, and its social and economic viability,” AGHAM said.

It added that the country must instead “harness indigenous energy resources and move away from imported, dirty, and dangerous fuels such as coal and nuclear.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)