Gov’t decision due this week on BNPP

By Myrna M. Velasco – December 9, 2017, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

Next week will be ‘judgment day’ for the idled Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP)  – if it will be time for the government to finally ‘bury it into oblivion’ or if there would still be that strapping probability for the facility to be rehabilitated and brought to commercial stream so it can meet part of the country’s electricity needs.

The assurance sounded off by Energy Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos has been that “this time, we will finally have a specific outcome.”

That will be anchored on the outcome of the pre-feasibility study carried out by the Russian Federation State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATUM) that will be submitted to the Department of Energy on December 11 (Monday).

Thus far, the department is still inconclusive as to what study result will be lodged to them. As reckoned by Marcos, “we might put a closure to the BNPP or there might still be a possibility for it to undergo rehabilitation.”

It will be high level team from the Russian nuclear firm that will be submitting and presenting the pre-feasibility study report – a process that had been done in collaboration with Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), as well as with a team of nuclear experts from the Czech Republic.

‘The ROSATUM had been coming back and forth to us by about four (4) times already – they involved more than 20 experts in the pre-feasibility study phase, including those from Worley Parsons Ltd., technical team from Nuklearna Elektr ama Krško of Slovenia and nuclear facility experts from Czech Republic,” he said.

The study team, Marcos said, had thoroughly examined the BNPP infrastructure underpinnings and the overall structure, as well as all of its documentation and licensing components.

In last month’s ASEAN Summit in Manila when the deal with ROSATUM was sealed, the DOE has been euphoric over its signing of a five-year ‘cooperation agreement’ with the Russian firm, purportedly to propel the country’s nuclear power ambitions.

Nevertheless, the department was still flagged to take ‘cautionary approach” especially in regard to plans of repowering the mothballed Bataan nuclear power facility.

Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian noted that while he “welcomes the opportunity for our country’s energy experts to gain more knowledge and craft strong regulatory framework” on nuclear power program, the proposed revival of the BNPP facility is a matter that must be handled with a lot of circumspection.

“I remain cautious about the proposal to revive the BNPP. The controversial 40-year old plant is a remnant of the failed nuclear energy policies of the past,” he said.

With that as a forethought, Gatchalian sternly stated that the BNPP “has no place in the future of Philippine nuclear energy.”

The PH-Russia nuclear deal treads on three parts: the conduct of studies on nuclear power infrastructure – both on the existing and the emerging technologies; the plan to bring back the BNPP on stream; and to pursue studies on potential deployment of modular nuclear power facilities in the Philippines.

It is not the first time that the DoE has been prompted to exercise prudence on proposals to bring back the idled nuclear power facility into operational state.

In fact, even in the last review undertaken by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2009, it prescribed multi-faceted tasks to be accomplished before the BNPP’s viability to operate could be determined.

The propounded action points stretch from having a feasibility study on BNPP rehabilitation; determination of the technical, budgetary and safety requirements; and laying down possible alternative uses of the facility.

The feasibility study in particular shall determine the actual status of the plant, update its licensing requirements, define the rehabilitation process and the activities for infrastructure building and implementation plan. By IAEA’s estimate, these processes could take seven (7) years to complete.