PRESIDENTIAL candidate Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo is open to the adoption of nuclear energy as a power source for the Philippines, but rejected the reopening the mothballed 620-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), citing safety concerns.
“We will never revive it because it was not even continued in the first place due to several reasons, so we will not revive its operations ever,” Ms. Robredo told the media after the first presidential debate hosted by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Saturday night.
Discussions on the possibility of reopening the decommissioned $2.2-billion BNPP recently emerged after President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed on Feb. 28 an executive order allowing the inclusion of nuclear power into the country’s energy mix as the government moves to abandon coal.
Ms. Robredo said if she wins in the May 9 elections, she will allow the construction of nuclear power plants that are backed by a thorough safety study.
The vice president, however, stressed that she would push more for renewable energy sources in line with the country’s commitment to curb carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
“And for me, we should be moving towards renewable energy sources already since we have committed to the COP26 that by 2050, we will be carbon neutral,” she said.
COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow in October last year wherein the Philippines was one of the 40 countries that endorsed the move to veer away from coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.
In 2020, the Philippines’ power mix consisted of 57% coal, 21% renewable energy, 19% natural gas, and 2% oil-based.
“Admittedly, nuclear power is cleaner compared with fossil fuel, it is contentious especially because a lot of people are scared for its safety. That’s our main concern,” Ms. Robredo said.
Attempts to reopen the BNPP during previous administrations to address power supply issues were hampered by safety concerns, specifically its location which is said to be along an active fault line and flawed design on safe disposal of highly radioactive nuclear wastes.
Energy Undersecretary Gerardo D. Erguiza, Jr. earlier said if allowed by the succeeding administration, the country can build a traditional nuclear power plant as early as 2027. Other nuclear power plants with small modular reactors, which are being eyed for off-grid areas, can be built as soon as the regulatory framework is in place.
The late President Corazon C. Aquino ordered the shut down of the BNPP in 1986, two years after it was completed, due to safety and corruption issues during its construction under the administration of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr.
Mr. Marcos’ only son and namesake Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is running for president in the coming elections. — Marielle C. Lucenio