Lawmaker hits bigger budget for mothballed nuclear plant

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant — BW FILE PHOTO

STATE-OWNED National Power Corp. (Napocor) has sought a bigger budget for next year to preserve the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

During a House plenary debate on the Energy department’s budget late Friday, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman questioned the P92.3-billion budget for next year’s maintenance of the plant that he called a “memorial of the corruption and greed during the Martial law regime.”

With an average yearly budget of P50 million, the country might have spent more than P2 billion on the facility in the past four decades, the lawmaker said.

Napocor got P52.55 million this year and P86.64 million last year to maintain the nuclear plant in Bataan province, 100 kilometers west of Manila, the capital.

Zamboanga City Rep. Jose M. Dalipe, who sponsored the Energy department’s budget, said the money would be used to replace the roofs of the facility’s main building and fix

the fences.

The 620-megawatt Bataan nuclear plant was built during the administration of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, and was shut down in 1986 due to alleged corruption and safety concerns. It was completed in the 1980s but was never used.

Construction started in 1976 and was stopped after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US in 1979.

A safety inquiry into the plant revealed more than 4,000 defects. Among the issues raised was that it was built near a major geological fault line and close to the then dormant Mount Pinatubo in central Luzon.

By 1984, when the plant was nearly complete, its cost had reached 2.3 billion. Debt repayment of the plant had been the country’s biggest single obligation.

President Marcos was overthrown by a popular uprising in February 1986. The government of then President Corazon C. Aquino mothballed the plant days after the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the Energy department to conduct a public consultation with Bataan citizens on the possible reopening of the nuclear generator, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said on Thursday.

In July, the President signed Executive Order 116 ordering various agencies led by the DoE (Department of Energy) to evaluate the viability of nuclear power as a long-term energy option. This includes a study on the potential revival of the Bataan plant.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi earlier said the Philippines was almost through with the industry requirements for nuclear development as prescribed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAE). However, it still has to enforce a policy and regulatory framework to allow the re-entry of nuclear energy in the generation mix.

Mr. Cusi expects the government to adopt a national policy to revive nuclear generation by December. — Adam J. Ang

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