Foreign experts from Russia and South Korea have rendered in their study outcomes that it is still highly feasible to pursue rehabilitation of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), and the Department of Energy (DOE) wants to give it the ‘final shot’ albeit it is apprehensive of community approval to the project.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi admitted that social acceptance could probably be the department’s biggest challenge, but they will still be putting their best foot forward at securing it — just to put a closure as to the fate of the idled nuclear facility.
The energy department will be taking its BNPP rehabilitation blueprint cues on the studies undertaken by Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), of which results had been submitted to the Philippine government last month.
“They (Rosatom and KHNP) submitted and they said it (BNPP) can still be set for rehabilitation,” he said.
But if the ultimate journey for BNPP would be dissolution, Cusi noted that he intends to invite electronic commerce whoppers Amazon and Alibaba as well as information technology giant Google to have a look at the BNPP site for possible conversion into data center.
“We can turn that into data center, I want to convert it into something useful. Any possibilities can happen. But if ever, I will have to talk to Amazon, or Google and Alibaba to have that for data center because it is a very safe structure,” Cusi said.
For the meantime, Cusi noted that they shall be basing their next steps on those study results of nuclear experts from partner-countries; primarily on the sphere of securing social acceptance on the project.
In fact, in many countries that had taken their plunge on nuclear power, gaining community approval often gobble up the longest duration in project gestation timeframes – often lasting 7-10 years even for those in the developed world.
“I’m looking at the community and the people – the bigger battle is the acceptance of the community, by the community of the project,” Cusi stressed.
The energy chief noted that other facets of the country’s ambition on ‘nuclear renaissance’ can be done within his department’s control, such as policy formulation and the complementing regulatory frameworks, even project cost allocation and fund sourcing.
Nevertheless, if in the end the host community would still reject proposals on BNPP’s repowering, then that shall serve as his signal to finally terminate any plans for the facility, and will just scour somewhere else for options, including turning that asset into a data center or tourism hub.
“Assuming that the province (Bataan) will not really agree to it (BNPP rehabilitation), then I will look for an alternative because I need to put a closure on this thing because all of us are paying for the cost,” Cusi said.
He qualified though that the country’s nuclear power investment terrain shall not just be limited to the BNPP, but will also cover prospective new builds and modular nuclear facilities that the private sector may embark on.
He said their approach will be to craft policies and regulation frameworks for the sector while also working on probable community go-signal on the BNPP rehabilitation program.
At this stage though, he noted that they will already cast timelines on targeted stakeholder consultations at the community on the likelihood of BNPP’s restoration and eventual operation.
Velasco, M. M. (January 14, 2018). DOE sets rehab path for BNPP. Manila Bulletin. Retreived from https://business.mb.com.ph/2018/01/14/doe-sets-rehab-path-for-bnpp/