A move is afoot in the House of Representatives, initiated by Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan, to rehabilitate for commercial operation the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP). The BNPP has been sitting idle for the past 23 years, a monument to government corruption and nuclear folly.
The cost of rehabilitation has been estimated at $1 billion. Considering the history of cost escalation in the nuclear industry, however, the actual cost may reach two to three times the initial estimates, or even more.
Filipinos living far from Bataan may think they have more urgent concerns than a nuclear plant. They must think again, for several reasons:
1. The Cojuangco proposal will fund the BNPP rehabilitation from a tax to be levied on the consumption of electricity, whether it is from a hydropower, wind, solar, coal or oil plant. Thus, every electricity consumer from Batanes to Tawi-tawi will be hit financially. That means most of us.
2. The government has plans for ten more nuclear plants all over the Philippines which could not be implemented because of anti-nuclear opposition. The target sites are a closely-guarded government secret. If the opposition to the BNPP is weak enough for the government to overcome, this will open the floodgates to more nuclear plants, possibly in your region or province. Or even in your hometown. Remember: several studies have indicated that leukemia and other cancers are more common, especially among children, within five to ten kilometers of nuclear plants.
3. Huge government projects draw corrupt bureaucrats like flies to garbage. These huge nuclear projects, costing several billion dollars each, will suck in funds from other government projects. They will mire the country in deeper debt. Yet much of the money will simply line the pockets of bureaucrats, suppliers and contractors. In the end, we the taxpayers, our grandchildren, and their grandchildren will end up footing the entire bill, as we did with the BNPP.
We have so many rivers, waterfalls and hotsprings that can provide us cleaner, safer, cheaper hydroelectric and geothermal power. Wind and wave can further supplement these.
For years now, the prices of computers, LCD projectors, digital cameras, and other electronic equipment have been steadily going down, thanks to large-scale production. The basic element in all these products is silicon, the same raw material used in solar panels. With the large-scale production of solar panels which have been announced in China, Germany and other countries, we may soon enjoy cheap solar power too. Then we may not even need a Meralco or an electric coop to enjoy the benefits of electricity.
But the government will have no money for any of these, if we open our doors to the BNPP and ten other nuclear plants.