BNPP: Mark Cojuangco failed to prove his case

[A shorter version of this article was published on March 15, 2009 by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Talk of the Town Section, p.A14. I am posting here the full article as submitted. The portions left out by the PDI editors, presumably to fit the piece into the available space, are marked in blue.]

Rep. Cojuangco failed to prove his case to rehabilitate BNPP

by Roberto Verzola*

Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan faced an enormous challenge when he boldly proposed the recommissioning of the 620 MW Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP). He should have realized that he took on a huge burden of proof with his proposal, for at least two reasons:

  1. The public is well acquainted with the BNPP’s well-documented history of corruption under the Marcos martial law regime ranging from substandard construction materials and practices to presidential bribes, as described in the book Debts of Dishonor.

  2. Three major official studies had already found the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) unfit to operate: a technical study by a team of over 15 nuclear experts assembled by the NUS Corporation in 1988; a second study, also under the term of President Corazon Aquino, by another team of 50 nuclear experts commissioned in 1990, who submitted a 28-volume report; and a third review conducted after a proposal to revive the BNPP was raised under the term of President Fidel Ramos, which again led the government to decide otherwise. These are historical facts, and the documents which became the basis for these decisions are presumably gathering dust in some government archives.

Rep. Cojuangco has failed to prove his case:

  1. He completely ignores earlier official studies, which were prepared by experts who actually made a detailed inspection of the BNPP itself. Instead, he justifies his proposal with miscellaneous factoids on nuclear power plants in other countries, selectively culled by him and his staff from the Web and Wikipedia.

  2. In the Feb. 2 public hearing conducted by Congress, he could neither cite nor present detailed technical, economic or financial feasibility studies on the BNPP itself, obviously because he has not done any.

  3. His claim that “in the 50-year history of the nuclear power industry in the West, including the Three Mile Island incident, not a single person has been killed or injured” is so blatantly false it boggles the mind that a congressman would expose himself so. A simple Internet search easily reveals the following deaths from nuclear plant accidents outside of Chernobyl: one death in Rhode Island, USA in 1964; two in Virginia, USA in 1986; two in Japan in 2000 (from a 1999 accident); another four in Japan in 2004; two in Pakistan in 2008. These results do not include injuries, which are presumably more numerous. I was a resource person at the Feb. 2 hearing in Congress when he made a similar “no-deaths” claim, and I directly told him he was wrong, as a simple Web search would show. He still made the same claim at the Feb. 20 Kamayan sa EDSA Forum, where I was also a resource person, and I again called his attention to the false claim. Yet, he obstinately repeats this false claim in his March 8 Inquirer piece.

  4. At least three published scientific studies (Wing 1996; Chang 2003; Kaatsch 2007) show that the incidence of leukemia and other cancers, especially among children, is higher within a 5-10 km radius of nuclear plants.

  5. His $1 billion BNPP rehabilitation cost estimate comes from a questionable method based on comparable coal plant costs, instead of detailed cost estimates of actual services and materials for nuclear plants.

  6. He claims that the BNPP will provide the cheapest electricity without giving any actual figures or providing any supporting financial study. He cites cheap nuclear electricity in France, the U.S. and elsewhere, ignoring the fact that their nuclear industries are heavily subsidized for nuclear bomb production and related military goals.

  7. His warnings of a possible power crisis in 2012 is based on overestimated demand projections made before the global recession that is currently in progress.

  8. His Inquirer piece forces on the public a false “either-or” choice between nuclear and fossil fuels, ignoring such viable options hydro, geothermal, biomass, and wind. Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells may still be expensive today. But remember that PV cells are made of silicon, the same semiconductor material used in computers, LCD projectors, digital cameras and other electronic equipment. With the entry of China into PV production, expect PV prices – now approaching $1/watt peak (or $620 million for 620 MWpeak) – to drop dramatically in the next few years. The lower prices will result in increased demand and larger-scale production, which will reduce prices even more.

  9. While the rest of the world wants to subsidize renewable energy sources to increase demand and hasten a drop in prices, Cojuangco’s bill will instead tax renewables to subsidize nuclear power, which is bizarre.

For details and other arguments, please check the site

*Roberto Verzola is a convenor of the Philippine Greens and co-author of the book Debts of Dishonor (1991) on odious debts, which include the BNPP debt.


One Comment

  1. Eco
    Posted March 24, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    On a related note, here is an article on the damaging effects of nuclear energy in France.'s_not_expand_it_to_the_u.s./?page=entire

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