Cojuangco’s cavalier method of costing the BNPP recommissioning

Setting aside the more important consideration of safety for the moment, the overall cost of recommissioning the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) as proposed by Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan should be a major factor in the decision of the Committee of Appropriations and the Congress as a whole whether or not to approve Cojuangco’s bill.

The Cojuangco bill wants the government to raise up to $I billion to finance the recommissioning of the BNPP. Remember that this is not for building a new plant from scratch, but to rehabilitate for operation a plant that was nearly complete but hss been idle for 22 years.

Where did Cojuangco get the figure of $1 billion? Certainly not from any technical, economic or financial feasibility study, because it was obvious at the Feb. 2 hearing of the Congress Committee on Appropriations he has not done or commissioned any. Here is what his explanatory note to his BNPP recommissioning bill says, word for word.

Cost to rehabilitate

The alternative to the rehabilitation of the BNPP is an equivalently sized coal fired power plant or gas fired power plant.

Such a plant would supposedly cost between U.S. $900 million to $1 billion.

It stands to reason therefore, that BNPP should come in under these costs or at the very worst, at an equal to this cost.

But it is not quite as simple as that because we do have to consider the hidden costs and risks involved in building a coal or gas fired power plant, as I have maybe already overstated.

I personally believe that the cost should be at about half of a new coal fired power plant. My reasoning for such a conclusion will be argued at committee. I do recognize that there may be matters which I have not considered in my estimation of these costs but I am sure that they will be brought out in committee.

That’s it. Cojuangco was looking at what coal plants of equivalent output “supposedly” cost. Then he reasons out that the recommissioning of the BNPP cannot exceed this supposed cost, although he “personally” believes it should be half as much. Not even a single Wikipedia article cited, although he does quote, in the preceding section, Greenpeace renegade Patrick Moore who is presumably more credible. So the bill itself provides for the “supposed” $1 billion instead of the $500 million that Cojuangco “personally believes” should be the true cost.

On the basis of such cavalier costing method, Cojuangco wants the government to collect from all electricity consumers or borrow from abroad up to $1 billion. This admittedly overstated amount is supposed to recommission a 22-year old unused nuclear plant whose safety remains unresolved and whose true recommissioning costs are unknown, if indeed it is still even possible to recommission it.

At least, President Ferdinand Marcos went through the process of commissioning a pre-investment study by the IAEA in 1966. Another IAEA-assisted feasibility study by U.S. consultants financed by the UNDP was commissioned by the Marcos martial law regime, which took power in September 1972. The feasibility study was finished in July 1973, leading directly to a Marcos announcement the same month that the Philippines will build its first nuclear power plant. At this point, the cost estimates for a new nuclear plant were still in the US$600 million range.

Cojuangco does not even have a feasibility study yet.

This is worse than déjà vu.

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