By Ellson Quismorio
Two lawmakers from Luzon have thumbed down a proposal to utilize nuclear energy as a means to address the dire power situation in the country and said there are safer and cheaper alternative sources of energy that can be tapped.
“Nuclear power is a non-issue now. Nobody is talking about nuclear energy,” said Isabela 1st district Rep. Rodito Albano when asked if the country should study the possibility of building a new nuclear power plant.
Observers said that the finished but unused and now probably obsolete Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) could’ve helped the country avoid its current power woes, particularly the plunging of power reserves in the Luzon grid.
Albano pointed out that the lowering of reserves “only happen during summer,” and as such, there’s no need to invest in a new nuclear plant.
Quezon City 2nd district Winston Castelo agreed with Albano and said the Philippines should stay away from nuclear energy.
“Not anymore, no need to build a new nuclear plant. There are a lot of alternative [energy] that are safer and less expensive. We should explore that,” said Castelo, who chairs the House Committee on Metro Manila Development.
He mentioned solar and wind energy as renewable energy sources that the government could develop further.
Last week, the Luzon grid was placed on red alert status three times by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) warning consumers, including those in the franchise area of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), of rotating brownouts.
The reason for this was falling power reserves caused by the simultaneous shutdown of several plants in Luzon during the summer when power demand from consumers is at its highest.
Completed in 1984, the BNPP was never fired due to a confluence of events, most notably the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that same year. The single-reactor plant cost $2.3 billion.
In 2017, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the government would have to invest $1 billion in “reviving” the BNPP.
Cusi also said that due to the sensitive nature and history of the BNPP, the public’s approval via national referendum must be gained first before the controversial plant could be activated.