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Sen. Gatchalian opposes BNPP revival without national nuclear policy

Senator Win Gatchalian airs his side on issues at a recent interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM. The multi-awarded official has 15 years of transformative service as mayor, congressman, and now as a senator handling critical committees on energy and economic affairs. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

Senator Win Gatchalian has expressed opposition to the approval of plans to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) in the absence of a clear and intensively-researched national nuclear policy.

Gatchalian, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, urged the Department of Energy to first commission a comprehensive feasibility study on the prospects of utilizing nuclear power in the Philippines before pushing ahead with the construction or refurbishment of any nuclear plants, including BNPP.

“We cannot jump into nuclear energy on a piecemeal basis. This feasibility study on nuclear power will be critical to objectively assessing the merits of adding nuclear power to our energy mix. We need to do our homework first before pulling the trigger on BNPP or any other nuclear project,” said Gatchalian.

According to Gatchalian, the feasibility study would tap independent international experts in geology, nuclear physics, engineering, and other key fields to independently assess the prospects of nuclear power in the Philippines, with environmental and community safety as the primordial concern.

In the absence of compelling positive findings from the BNPP study, Gatchalian maintained that it would be more prudent to invest the $1 billion USD required to refurbish the plant in the exploration and development of untapped indigenous energy sources, especially within the energy-rich waters of the West Philippine Sea.

“One billion dollars is a lot of money. We have to make sure that we are investing this substantial sum in cost-efficient energy ventures which are guaranteed to make significant contributions to the long-term stability of our energy supply,” said Gatchalian.

In addition, Gatchalian noted that the regional trend has been shifting away from nuclear power, citing the example of Vietnam, an ASEAN neighbor which recently decided to scrap plans to build two nuclear power plants due to economic viability concerns.

“The Vietnamese experience illustrates the necessity of undertaking hard research and crafting a comprehensive long-term plan before jumping into nuclear power. Otherwise, we are at risk of wasting significant time and resources on a nuclear white elephant,” said Gatchalian.