Decision over Bataan nuclear plant’s fate not happening in 2014

Rappler.com
The energy czar says it will be President Aquino who will decide whether to revive the mothballed power plant or not

FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Any decision on the proposal to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is not likely to happen this year, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said Monday, June 23.

The P2.3-billion ($52.46 million) nuclear power plant, with a capacity of 600 megawatts (MW), was built between 1976 and 1984 on a 357-hectare government property at Napot Point in Morong.

Talks on BNPP’s revival started last year. While Petilla said it could help ease the country’s power supply problems, he stressed that DOE was not reviving BNPP.

“I believe in energy resources that are reliable and will bring about cheaper electricity. However, the question is safety,” he said.

Petilla said the decision on what to do with BNPP must be based on a study because the project faces strong opposition from environmental groups.

“The study is ongoing. Not sure if the study will be completed this year,” Petilla said in a text message.

The study is being undertaken by DOE but Petilla said it would tap the services of a third-party consultant to help the agency.

“ … We don’t have anybody in mind yet but have tasked the power bureau to scout from international organizations who are well versed on this matter,” he said.

Petilla also made it clear that the decision was not his to make. “That’s a decision the President will have to make rather than myself,” he said, noting that his recommendation would be based on the results of the study.

The energy chief is certain that the decision over BNPP’s fate will be made within the term of President Benigno Aquino III.  “Whether it will be mothballed, activated or scrapped totally, my thrust is this administration will decide on it,” he said.

Other options than nuclear power

Until no decision has been made, the DOE is requesting the Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), which expressed interest to put up a 600-MW coal-fired power plant beside BNPP, to relocate its proposed power facility.

“They want to locate it beside BNPP. But we are saying, ‘can you look for other areas because we don’t want to condemn BNPP yet, not at this point.’ Look for an area slightly away from BNPP,” Petilla said.

Petilla pointed out that converting the mothballed nuclear facility into a coal plant was an option “but not to the point that it would kill the viability of the BNPP before it is actually concluded.”

Also, the property where BNPP is located is owned not by the DOE but by the Department of Finance (DOF).

“They [KEPCO] will have to deal with DOF if they plan to push through with it. As far as I know, they’re talking to both of us,” Petilla said, adding that public consultations with residents of Bataan should be conducted first.

Meanwhile, House Committee on Energy Chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali proposed that BNPP be converted to a gas facility fueled by SNG (substitute natural gas) and its capacity increased to 1,800 MW from 600 MW.

SNG is a gas that can be produced from fossil fuels such as lignite coal, oil shale, biofuels or renewable energy.

“It’s not cheap so we’d rather produce it ourselves. We will revolutionize the energy sector by producing SNG at an even cheaper price than Malampaya,” Umali said.

Umali said that instead of importing liquefied natural gas, the Philippines has the potential of becoming a net exporter of SNG that would not only spur the country’s economy but also revolutionize the Philippine energy sector. A 60-MW pilot SNG project is being eyed in Mindoro.

Umali urged the DOE to focus on reducing the country’s dependence on imported fuels and act decisively and support SNG development. – Rappler.com

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