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BNPP sturdier than Fukushima plant

IF THE Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) had been in operation, and an earthquake followed by a tsunami similar to what happened in Japan last week had occurred, would it have gone the way of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP)?

The answer is an unambiguous no, according to former Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan, who is leading the move to study the feasibility of reactivating the BNPP. And he is credible, because he has no financial interest in any activity related to the issue, his main concern being how to make the country more competitive by lowering its energy costs, not to mention reduce its pollution. Moreover, he has done a lot of homework on the subject.

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Why the no?

Well, says Cojuangco, for one thing, the BNPP is built on a hilltop, 18 meters above sea level, so no tsunami could have touched it. Is this a big deal? Yes, because the FNPP problems were caused by the tsunami that followed the earthquake.

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For another, if the FNPP did not crumble because of the earthquake, much less would the BNPP. Why? Because the BNPP was designed to withstand a seismic load (definition: the force on a structure caused by acceleration induced on its mass by an earthquake) of 0.4g, while the FNPP was designed to a seismic load of only 0.18g. Cojuangco also points out that the FNPP did not crumble despite the fact that the earthquake was stronger than its design basis, because apparently nuclear plants are built conservatively with “overkill ‘safety factors’.”

For kickers, Cojuangco mentions that while the FNPP is a BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) with only one cooling circuit, the BNPP is a PWR with two separate and distinct cooling circuits. The additional isolation apparently makes for “more forgiving of extreme situations” although the tradeoff is a reduction in efficiency (4 percent).

Cojuangco’s views are a welcome relief from the rush to judgment that has apparently gripped any number of people, led and fed of course by the so-called “anti-nukes.” But that does not excuse the inaccuracies being bruited about to bolster the anti-nuke position. Thankfully, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo and Sen. Miriam Santiago refuse to be stampeded.

* * *

With all the attention being focused on the Japanese tragedy (and I salute the Japanese people for their grace under tremendous pressure), let us please not overlook the latest example of the sea change (for the better) that has taken place in the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). We cannot afford to, because what is involved amounts to hundreds of billions (not millions) of pesos that rightly belong to the Filipino people.

The reader will recall that an earlier PCGG, upon the urging of the late, unlamented Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, who in turn was urged by the defense attorney, fired the best lawyer it had against Lucio Tan et al. (Civil Case 0005) which was being heard in the Sandiganbayan. It then later opined that granting immunity to Tan’s brother, Mariano Tanenglian, to enable him to testify against Lucio, would not serve the interests of the republic. Moreover, the government lawyers seemed to be content to be ridden roughshod over by the Sandiganbayan and by Tan’s lawyers.

Well, not anymore, praise be. Four days ago, a motion signed by two new PCGG commissioners (Gerard Mosquera and Richard Amurao) and the new solicitor general (Joel Cadiz), among others, asked that the justices hearing the case—Roland Jurado, Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos and Napoleon Inoturan—voluntarily inhibit themselves. About time.

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Why? Because of the justices’ “manifest partiality and bias in favor of the powerful interests impleaded in this case” (read Lucio Tan), which “glaring inequity substantially eroded the Republic’s faith that this case would be resolved in accordance with law, justice and equity.”

I totally agree. While the Motion for Voluntary Inhibition documents the bias, it is couched in legalese, and full of “regrettably” and “this Honorable Court.” Here is my version:

I have been following Civil Case 0005 for a long time, but two years ago, a major break appeared for the government when the brothers Tan (Lucio and Mariano) had an irreparable public rift. Mariano prepared to be a government witness against Lucio.

Shortly after that, however, the Sandiganbayan laid down a ruling, at the urging of the defense, that the plaintiff (government) had only 15 days to submit all its evidence, with the defense given another 15 days to comment, after which the court would have deemed the “incident” submitted for resolution.

The articulated reason for such a ruling (and the defense request) was that the plaintiff had dragged its feet on the case for too long. But the timing of the ruling, coming so close after the news of the possibility of Mariano’s turning state witness, had to be, at the very least, cause for suspicion. No matter how the language was couched, it was obvious (at least to a layman like me) that both the defense and the Sandiganbayan were trying to head off the disaster that the Tanenglian testimony would wreak.

After that, the Sandiganbayan seemed to be stonewalling every motion filed by the prosecution for relief, siding with the defense every time. I was forcefully reminded of the bias showed by then Regional Trial Court Judge Amelia Tolentino in the Webb case (she got her comeuppance from Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno).

Go get them, PCGG and OSG. The Filipinos deserve a break.

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