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Public involvement critical at every stage of PH nuclear power program

Senator Win Gatchalian backed government efforts to put a premium on public involvement on moves to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).


MANDALUYONG CITY, Philippines – The BGC business district in the neighboring city of Taguig as seen in this time exposure image, 11 March 2018 file. Senate Committee on Energy chairman Senator Win Gatchalian said the inherent risks of producing nuclear power to public welfare and its viability as a long-term solution to ensure stability of supply should be explained clearly to all stakeholders in discussing its potential in the country’s energy mix. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

“I am one with the President in conducting local consultations with the residents of the province of Bataan because they will be the ones directly affected in case of a nuclear disaster,” Gatchalian said.

“In discussing the potential of nuclear power in our energy mix, the inherent risks to public welfare and its viability as a long-term solution to ensure stability of supply should be elucidated clearly to all stakeholders, most especially to the residents of Bataan,” he added.

The possible activation of the BNPP in Morong, Bataan should assure safety concerns and integrity of the nuclear plant especially among its estimated 30,000 residents, he said.

The Senate Energy Committee Chairman raised the issue on the government’s capability in providing immediate aid to Morong residents, if and when emergency situations occur in the operations of the BNPP.

In Japan, when a tsunami disabled the power and cooling of three reactors of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in 2011, an estimated 100,000 residents were evacuated from their homes and it was only last year when the evacuation order was partially lifted.

“Itong mga ganito ang dapat nating pag-isipan, hindi lang ang teknolohiya. Kailangang planuhin natin ang ating tugon sa anumang posibleng mangyari at kung mayroon tayong kakayahan na rumesponde sa mga ganitong insidente,” he emphasized.

Considering the many issues surrounding the BNPP such as the cost of its utilization more than four decades after its establishment, environmental concerns and reliance as energy source, policy makers should be open in discussing these issues to stakeholders to regain public trust, according to Gatchalian.

But before the BNPP could be fully operational, Gatchalian cited the need to enact laws addressing environmental issues related to nuclear wastes and the aspect of public safety, among many others.

“We need a number of comprehensive laws to address infrastructure issues. Dahil nga malaki ang risk o pagkadelikado, maraming batas ang kailangan para masiguro na ligtas ang ating bansa sa ganitong teknolohiya,” he explained.

Prior to President Duterte’s latest directives to the Department of Energy (DOE) to consult with Bataan residents on the possible activation of the BNPP, Gatchalian has called on the department, as early as October last year, to be transparent on its nuclear energy agenda and early this year, pressed for the public disclosure of its integrated work plan for nuclear power infrastructure. Both have yet to be addressed.