even marcos was stopped by safety concerns #NoToBNPP

last night i caught the start of ANC’s square off debate on the bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP), the host opining that no one who had anything to do with it back in the 70s and 80s seems to be around any longer, so here we go with a student debate, and the pro-BNPP kids proceeded to make mincemeat of the anti-BNPP kids particularly on questions over the integrity of the structure and oh-what-a-waste of good money when nuclear energy is so clean compared to coal blah blah blah.

it was painful to watch, the anti-BNPP kids obviously not having done enough research to be convincing, and i didn’t stay.  but i returned at the end of the hour to hear the final verdict by three judges in robes (some 10, maybe 20 years older) who announced that the pro-BNPP kids were sooo galing, even they had been convinced by the arguments, hurray.

in aid of informed debate, my next three posts are on the BNPP, also known as the philippine nuclear power plant-1 (PNPP-1 — marcos had planned for two nuclear plants).  these are excerpts from “A Primer on Nuclear Power” based on transcripts of a panel discussion of experts that environmentalist maximo “junie” kalaw‘s philippine institute of alternative futures (PIAF) and physicist and geodetic engineer celso roque’s haribon gathered together in a public forum at the height of demonstrations for a nuclear-free philippines in 1985.

the first is by dr. salvador gonzalez, de la salle university professor of theoretical physics, who tells how mankind stumbled on nuclear energy; he is not against the nuclear power plant in principle but requests a clean bill of health.  the second is by dr. achilles del callar, nuclear engineer, dean of the college of science of adamson university, who tells of serious safety concerns, including leaking tubes, and the hopeless search for geologically stable sites for the storage of radioactive waste.  the third by dr. ruben umali, radiation biologist of UP, tells of the lack of research on how sensitive Philippine flora, fauna, and marine life are to radiation, and how we therefore have no way of detecting radioactive leakages.

even marcos, powerful and astig as he was, did not have the guts to shrug off concerns not just about whether the plant is structurally sound and capable of withstanding major earthquakes and/or eruptions of volcanos nearby, but also about the nuclear reactor’s technical defects that even westinghouse could not deny, and the huge problem of where to put the radioactive waste.  we would be very foolish, crazy, hare-brained to trust duterte’s energy sec alfonso cusi who is just another oligarch pala with the skimpiest science background but who dares tread where even marcos dared not.

so it’s not true that cory was just being vindictive when she ordered that the BNPP be mothballed.  if she had been truly vindictive she would not have ordered that the debts incurred be paid with public monies — she would have told the foreign banks to go make singil marcos and his cronies instead.


  1. calling out GERRY BAJA and ANTHONY TABERNA of DZMM teleradyo! twice now i’ve heard you, gerry baja, perorating on the BNPP, how safe it is, and how cory shot down the consensus that it be switched on just because it was a marcos project. anthony taberna, chuchuwariwap ka naman ngayon, willing kamo maligo si mark cojuangco sa BNPP, safe kasi ito. seriously, guys? konting basa naman, at konting research. si marcos mismo, na pinaka-astig sa ating lahat, natakot na i-switch on ang BNPP na yan dahil lahat ng nag-inspect ay nagkaisa tungkol sa structural defects. isa pa, walang paglalagyan ng radioactive waste. pag pinagpatuloy ninyo ang ganyang kahindikhindik na irresponsible propaganda in aid of that oligarch’s outrageous advocacy, maniniwala na akong mga bayaran lang kayo.

  2. The Whale and the BNPP by Laurence Delina

    To be efficiently operated and maintained, a nuclear power plant needs some form of authoritarian management style.

    Top-down control is essential for various reasons. Its size and complexity, both engineering and regulatory, is one.

    Yet another is its cost. BNPP, before it will be commissioned, still has to be fully assessed for its structural integrity, including obviously for safety. Sited near a fault line, one wonders how the plant could pass this rigor in the first place. Such assessment, which has to be regularly done, entails costs. If commissioned, expense for imported fuel, disposal and storage of spent fuel, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning also need to be budgeted for. Add to that costs for training generations of highly technical people in its operations. Altogether, these expenses require a society with a significant amount of wealth—unless, of course, this government would again repeat what Marcos did: ask for a loan and pass on the burden of payments to future generations of Filipinos.

    The need for extremely tight security precautions is another. For a power plant whose fuel commands attraction for terrorists, BNPP has to become a highly secretive facility.

    Governments could also use BNPP to strengthen the military. BNPP could easily make the Philippines a nuclear arm powerhouse. The cases of India and Pakistan, which developed nuclear energy in the early 1970s, are instructive. More than 40 years later, both get less than 5 percent of their electricity from nuclear power, while each has amassed a cache of more than 100 nuclear warheads.