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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Greenpeace: Nuclear power is not the solution to PH’s energy woes

/ 04:05 AM March 22, 2022

We are writing to respond to Solita Monsod’s two recent columns on nuclear power and the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). We believe these columns glossed over several important facts that the nuclear industry also wants to hide from the public eye.

First, nuclear power is not cheap. Costs for radioactive nuclear waste management and storage, decommissioning, and insurance, need to be factored in. Monsod compares nuclear prices to coal and oil, but recent reports by the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency have already confirmed that renewable energy (RE), primarily from solar and wind, is now the cheapest source of electricity by far. Rehabilitating the BNPP won’t be cheap either. Monsod makes a price comparison with new nuclear plants (which are prohibitively expensive) but neglects to make a comparison with RE, whose capital costs are a lot less than that of upgrading the BNPP.

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There are also hidden costs, such as the costs to health and livelihoods of communities living in the vicinity of these plants, as well as the costs all Filipinos will pay to maintain a regulatory agency. But the biggest hidden cost is the price of a nuclear accident. This cost runs in the trillions of pesos and will affect generations of Filipinos. Neither the nuclear industry nor the government has mentioned anything about how these costs will be paid for should this happen.

Second, nuclear power will not solve our power woes or give us energy security. We still need to import radioactive fuel, so we will be hostage to the price volatility of this commodity. Nuclear proponents also never mention that fuel production is almost a monopoly, dominated by only four companies. This arrangement will lock us into dependence on foreign fuel and companies, where any shortage or increase in demand globally would mean Filipinos will be faced with rising energy costs that the government can’t control.

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Third, the BNPP has not been confirmed by any independent study to be safe for operation, and “small modular nuclear reactors” for power generation don’t exist. All the studies so far conducted that have called the BNPP “safe” were undertaken by bodies connected with the industry, and therefore would not be subjective in their assessment. On the other hand, a safety inquiry conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists found more than 4,000 technical defects in the plant. Meanwhile, small modular reactors being promoted by nuclear companies or agencies of Russia and the US are still currently being studied. Should the Philippines take this route, we will be among the first guinea pigs of this human experiment.

Fourth, we’ve never heard anything about permanent storage for radioactive spent fuel from nuclear promoters. The cost for constructing and maintaining this facility will likely be in the trillions of pesos, to be paid for by all Filipinos, not just nuclear power customers. But will the government find a safe place for this deadly waste in the archipelagic and volcanic Philippines? And will there be a local government unit that would willingly accept it? The problem of dealing with nuclear waste is the toxic burden we will leave today’s youth and their children, for them to additionally deal with, alongside climate impacts.

The debt we incurred because of BNPP was gargantuan. It was unfortunate that we paid for what was, in reality, the price of bad energy planning railroaded by a government that was blinded by the false glitter of nuclear power—and the kickbacks an expensive power project would bring. Will we let history repeat itself?

Monsod’s hinayang is for the past—sayang the money we paid for it, she says. It’s true we can’t get it back. But we can prevent Flipinos from bearing the same oppressive burden again. We have the opportunity to harness the cheapest power sources in the world—RE in the form of solar and wind—and redesign our energy system into flexible decentralized grids that are infinitely more efficient than the outdated centralized models reliant on inflexible baseload plants, such as nuclear. This kind of energy planning is smart, and game-changing, and is the real solution to the climate crisis. Mas malaking hinayang if we don’t take this opportunity to transform our energy system now, and create a better energy future for ourselves.

KHEVIN YU
Energy Transition Campaigner
Greenpeace Philippines
[email protected]

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TAGS: Greenpeace Philippines, Khevin Yu, Letters to the Editor, Nuclear power
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