BNPP safety: whose burden of proof?

Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco wants the Philippine government to spend up to $1 billion to recommission the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP). Yet, he has presented no recent technical, economic or financial feasibility study to back up his claim that, once operational, the BNPP will be safe and will produce cheap electricity. And it is clear that he has not done or commissioned any such study. He could only cite the feasibility studies done during the Marcos presidency, more than thirty years ago.

With regards to the safety of the BNPP, three relatively more recent studies had been made, when the Aquino administration decided to mothball the plant. In 1986, they asked U.N. Center for Transnational Corporations to do a technical review. This was followed by a detailed technical audit by the NUS Corporation, a U.S. nuclear consultancy firm, which assembled a 15-person team of experts from the U.S., Germany, Brazil, South Korea and Japan. Its report was submitted in 1988. A third study was commissioned by the government in 1990 by 50 nuclear experts from the U.S. and Europe. These studies all concluded that the plant would be unsafe to operate.

From 1986 when it was mothballed to the present, the BNPP lay idle. In the meantime, given the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, international and national regulatory authorities have further raised their safety standards.

We must remember that the BNPP was designed and built according to old, pre-1986 standards.

To claim that the BNPP will be safe to operate today, and will furthermore produce cheap electricity, the burden of proof is on Cojuangco to show that this is so.

And so far, the public has seen no such proof.

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