A second look at a ‘nuclear-powered’ Philippines
One only needs to stay in a remote village to feel the sorry state of the country’s rural electrification program today. There, you would see houses with no electricity to illuminate their evenings or electric fans to cool families on hot days.
In some progressive municipalities in Mindanao, there’s a lack of electricity supply such that electricity suppliers or power distribution utilities limit electric daily supply to a specific number of hours. Where electricity is available 24/7, it is at costly rates unaffordable to poor households, and so rural folks resort instead to candles or gas lamps for lighting, and to batteries for radio.
It’s already the 21st century and the country still scrambles for backup power supply whenever power plants shut down for maintenance. Our country now generates its power supply from various sources, still they are not enough to keep up with the demand of robust economic development and steady population growth.
Existing energy sources should be expanded and new sources should be tapped to power new businesses and factories, more homes and more electric trains.
The country actually missed attaining energy self-sufficiency and wasted $2.3 billion because it opted to mothball the completed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) 40 years ago. Had we resorted to nuclear energy in the past four decades, our progress and development would now be at par with those countries using nuclear energy like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Germany.
The BNPP is still there, offering alternative energy to help meet the demand of businesses and manufacturing facilities. It’s good to know that we have an open-minded energy secretary in the person of Alfonso Cusi, who knows the great potential of the BNPP in terms of increasing power production and reducing electricity rates, one of the goals of the Duterte administration.
More than any other reason, the BNPP was mothballed because of politics. As to safety concerns, the BNPP is just like non-nuclear power plants that can be operated properly so as not to harm public health. There have been nuclear plant accidents in the United States, Japan and the former Soviet Union with deadly consequences, but the economic benefits of the plants have outlived their tragedies. Nuclear fallouts and radioactive leaks are the price of progress that nuclear countries have accepted, learned from and prepared for.
More than ever, the BNPP is worth a try. With its promise of stable power supply, local cities can support more businesses, which would generate more employment opportunities. Electricity generated by a nuclear power plant would also be more affordable to every household.
—MARIA REGINA B. SANTIAGO, [email protected]
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