In celebration of Earth Day today, members of APL-Youth around the country will reaffirm their commitment to protect and to nurture the deteriorating environment by staging a protest actions against a proposed law in Congress that seeks to revive the country’s mothballed nuclear plant.
Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan filed last July House Bill 4631 or the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Re-Commissioning Act of 2008 claiming that nuclear power is the cheapest and safest source of electricity, it could help curb global warming or climate change as it is the best if not the only alternative to the widespread use of toxic fossil fuel (petroleum, coal, etc.), and it would address a possible power crisis in 2012.
Mirasol Capellan, APL-Youth national secretary general, said that Cojuangco is merely mouthing the “old nuclear folly and fallacies” that have recently been restored by a clique of transnational corporations that controls the global nuclear industry.
Construction of nuclear facilities is notorious for always being late on schedule of their completion and for overshooting their earmarked funds, Capellan added. Hence, any timetable for the BNPP rehabilitation will remain doubtful, and its final costs will most probably exceed the $1-billion allocation that HB 4631 is asking.
Studies reveal that no less than $1.5 billion is now needed to build a medium-capacity nuclear power plant, which has about 30 years of productive life. Still excluded are the overall operating expenses for the facility, funds for the maintenance and management of radioactive wastes, and payments for the eventual dismantling of the plant, which costs at least as much as its construction.
Two examples here are the BNPP’s initial budget costing for its construction has skyrocketed from $600 million to eventually $2.3 billion, not counting the $640 million incurred as interest payment; and the total cost for the closure only of the Eccellente-Phenix reactor in France was estimated at $2.4 billion.
APL-Youth also reminded the congressman that the whole life cycle of nuclear plant is filled with danger, especially the mining, processing, transporting and using of the plant’s radioactive fuel, whose toxicity lasts for about 1,000 years and could cause sickness and death to people and animals, as well as could poison the soil, water and the atmosphere.
Plutonium, the power plant’s waste product, is even more lethal than the nuclear fuel as its very powerful toxins could remain for over 240,000 years, and it is both a key ingredient for nuclear weapons – thus, the added risk of nuclear arms proliferation – and a deadly carcinogen.
Similarly, Cojuangco’s BNPP revival was based on unreliable projections on electricity demands, which was conducted long before the current global recession and based on exaggerated forecasts that started in 1993. Cojuangco claimed that there would be a 3,000-megawatt shortage before 2012 and the BNPP could address at least 20 percent of this shortfall.
This overprojection resulted not only to overcapacity of the Philippine electricity sector but “has been proven to be as expensive as (if not more than) a power shortage.” Data from the Department of Energy showed that in the entire 2007, the country had “an excess capacity of 4,218 MW on a national level” – compared that to BNPP’s untested 621 MW power! In fact, the Department of Energy has recently announced that despite the tight supply in the Visayas and Mindanao, there was a downtrend demand on electricity in Luzon – disputing a key premise of HB 4631, since Luzon is the target area (or at least a fraction of it) of the BNPP “reactivation.”
To bankroll the BNPP rehabilitation, HB 4631 proposes that the government to allocate $1 billion, which could be sourced either by letting electric consumers pay a surcharge of 10 centavos/kWh or through loans. Meaning, new burden to the hapless people in the form of either additional charges on their electric bills or in new taxes.
Due to the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident in the US in 1979, the BNPP construction, which started in 1976, was suspended, and even after it was finished in 1984 was permanently shelved by the Aquino government after the downfall of Marcos in 1986; in particular, days after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in Ukraine in April of that year.
The BNPP remained idle as it was riddled with safety problems, a subsequent probe disclosed that the power plant had over 4,000 design and structural defects; aside from the “natural dangers” posed by its being close to major earthquake fault lines and to three volcanoes – the then dormant Mt. Pinatubo (but has since shown to be mega-powerful when it erupted in 1992); the latent Mt. Mariveles; and, according to some noted scientists, the “potentially active” Mt. Natib, on which foot in Morong, Bataan is where the BNPP is located.
In addition, the whole BNPP project was filled with huge anomalous transactions, notably overpricing, substandard construction materials, and bribery amounting to tens of millions of dollars (some say up to $80 million). Post-Marcos Philippine governments filed appropriate charges in US courts versus the Westinghouse Electric Co., the BNPP main builder and reactor maker. Unfortunately, the charges were all dismissed.
BNPP was a waste so huge that it could be one of the biggest – if not the biggest of all – white elephant projects of corruption-ridden Philippine governments. A study by a TV program said that the $2.3 billion-cost of the BNPP was enough to buy 130 million sacks of rice to feed the country for one year; and enough to build 200,000 classrooms to house 11 million students.
APL-Youth is advocating for the development and use of alternative, safer, cheaper, more abundant, and “greener” or environmentally friendly power sources, like solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energies. For instance, APL-Youth quoted a research that says that “in one second, the sun sends out more energy than humans have consumed in all of recorded history.”
APL-Youth is the youth arm of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, a national labor center of various workers’ organizations from the private, informal and migrant sectors. APL-Youth, composed of community-, school- and workplace-based teens and young adults ages 15-35, aims to unite and empower the youth sector and to link them with the labor movement and the broader social movements.