Business Mirror issues nuclear power piece

The Business Mirror has published an astute article today titled “No to Progress or Peril: Revisiting the Case For or Against Nuclear Energy.” It attempts to present both sides of the nuclear energy issue, although in my opinion, this Perspective piece by writer Imelda Abaño could not help but make obvious the underlying motives of the nuclear power sector in attempting to resurrect the environmental scourge known as nuclear power.

Using Abaño’s article as bases for my following points, here are some more compelling arguments as to why we need to voice our dissension against the government’s move to revisit nuclear power.

The proponents of nuclear energy expect us to accept an infusion of US$1BILLION (That’s PHP48,000,000,000!) into the rehabilitation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant on the basis of conjecture. National Power Corporation (NPC) President Froilan Tampinco insists “we have to be broader in perspectives and we must feel confident that Filipinos are capable of operating such a high-technology source of power.”

All respect due Mr. Tampinco, but this is an optimistic statement almost foolhardy in its Quixotic intentions. Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes has already inspected the BNPP, and admitted that the Philippines is still not ready for nuclear power because the government lacked infrastructure and support for the energy option. The lack of infrastructure and support is just the tip of the iceberg; we are not capable at this point in time, and I doubt we will ever be.

We will be beholden to first-world countries to supply us uranium. We do not control the price of uranium, as well as the other materials that go into the production of nuclear power, and, having invested US$1BILLION in the rehabilitation of the power plant, we will be forced to purchase these materials so our initial investment will not go to waste.

Pangasinan Fifth District Rep. Mark Cojuangco, main proponent of the bill seeking the revival of the BNPP, believes the plant will help the Philippines meet its increasing energy demands. “The Philippines’ per-capita electric consumption is very low due to the highest prices in the region,” he says, “Thus, compared to our neighbors, we simply are poorer now. Our population is growing, our power plants are aging, it is a matter of time [before we] need more power.”

The question at hand is this: why insist on investing in the BNPP when there are perfectly legitimate energy sources that can meet our energy demands but reduce our impact on the environment? Tampinco would have us believe that we need to adjust our infrastructure to meet the demands of the BNPP, instead of us targeting the development of energy sources that fit hand-in-hand with our current economic and power situations. He says, “We must convince them that this is something viable and good for the country ultimately. So that is a very big ingredient. We have to convince our own people that this is a viable option.”

Good luck convincing me, Mr. Tampinco. Good luck convincing the residents of Bataan, who have been protesting the BNPP since its project inception. Good luck convincing the Filipino people of the viable option of investing in a power source that could poison their water sources, explode in their faces, and suction a huge amount of money out of their hard-earned taxes. Good luck trying to make us believe that the revival of an antiquated, outdated, outright dangerous power source is out of good intentions.

Contrary to what the World Nuclear Association would have us believe, nuclear power places us in direct dependence to first-world nations. Many countries are relying on nuclear energy, but the overwhelming majority of these nations have the proper infrastructure and economic liquidity to handle the production of nuclear power. Please, we are not a France, or a United States of America, or Brazil. The WNA would have us believe that “nuclear power provides energy independence and security of supply.” That is an outright misleading lie: nuclear power requires an energy source, uranium, that we will be in dependence to suppliers for.

The proponents of nuclear power would have us believe it is more worthwhile to invest in nuclear power than in green energy. TIME Magazine has pointed out that green energy is the wave of the future; we would be out of our minds to not just move into the future but, as my beautiful wife puts it, “to go back to the Jurassic age.”

The Philippines has heavily invested in green energy. We are the second-largest geothermal energy producer in the world.  Leonardo DiCaprio has come to our country to study our wind energy facilities. 20% of our energy is provided by hydroelectric facilities. (We have not invested in hydroelectric power in the past two decades, yet we rely on it for 20% of our energy. Now they want to invest in a power that has turned over 0%, cost us over US$2BILLION since its completion in 1984, and promises to indebt us to world suppliers of uranium?)

Scientists are predicting the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by the summer of 2013; we need to reduce our carbon footprint as soon as humanly possible. In an age where first-world governments are scrambling to reduce their carbon footprints, we want to actually increase it by investing in a largely toxic energy source! Nuclear energy promises to snowball all our efforts to preserve our erstwhile pristine natural resources!

The BNPP is NOT SAFE. The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is build near major earthquake fault lines. It is located near Mount Pinatubo. It is close enough to Philippine waters to poison a significant amount of water in the event of a nuclear disaster. mistake with the dumping of toxic waste. Prof. Roland Simbulan of the University of the Philippines, National Chairman of the Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC), says we do not have an effective disaster management culture especially to handle nuclear technology,” and I’m inclined to agree with him.

There are sensible voices in government backing us. Presidential Adviser on Climate Change Heherson Alvarez notes that nuclear energy “has to be built or revived for a long period of time, sufficient funded and in a safe and secure manner. The Philippines is not yet ready for this.” Alvarez, like Simbulan, suggested investing in renewable energy like wind, solar, mini-hydro and biofuels. Sen. Pia Cayetano said the recent passage of the Renewable Energy Law (Republic Act 9513) should prompt the government to create more opportunities for investment on renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, sea, mini-hydro and geothermal power. Update: Note the article has many more soundbites from other environmental advocates, and I know other government officials will sooner or later come out to signify their support of the BNPP Closure initiative.

Say no to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant by emailing your local congressman and telling her/him to vote against the BNPP. You may direct them to Greenpeace for adequate information.

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