Bataan Philippine Reactor - 30 Years Unfueled

Michael Anderson
February 24, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2015


Fig. 1: Bataan Reactor. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Philippines commissioned its first nuclear program in 1958, the Philippines Atomic Energy Comission (PAEC), with the goal of developing the nation's first nuclear reactor. With the oil crisis of 1973 and subsequent oil embargo being placed on Middle East supplies, significant economic pressures were placed upon the Philippine economy. President Ferdinand Marcos, in July 1973, announced plans, by executive degree, to build a nuclear power plant. His aims were centered on idea that nuclear energy would provide liberation from the highly volatile pricing imported fuel. [1]

At a cost of $2.3 BN US, and equipped with a Westinghouse lightwater reactor, the Bataan reactor was designed to produce 621 megawatts of electricity. [1] Construction began in 1976 and was halted in 1979 following the Three Mile Island disaster. [1] Serious concerns about reactor safety emerged, and subsequent safety inspections revealed over 4,000 flaws. The plant was situated on numerous fault lines, with speculation linking its flawed location to regional ancestral ties with President Marcos. [2,3]

In February 1986 the Marcos regime was overthrown by the Peoples Power Revolution of Corazon Aquino. [1] On April 26th of the same year the Chernobyl disaster took place in the Ukraine and the new administration decided to cease plans to bring the Bataan reactor online. Considerable concern from local residents as well as issues surrounding the construction of the reactor by Westinghouse weighed heavily in the decision. [4]

Debts and Lawsuits

Following the decision to not take the plant online the Philippine government attempted to sue Westinghouse Corporation for negligence in construction, allegations of corruption with the Marcos regime centered on bribery and illegal construction pricing, in US courts. [4] These efforts ultimately failed and the Bataan Nuclear Reactor became the biggest single debt obligation of the Philippine nation over the subsequent two decades. [4] In April 2007 the reactor was finally paid off by the government, nearly three decades after ground was broken on the project.

Present Status

Maintenance of the plant has continued, including both the grounds, and to the reactor itself despite the fact that the reactor was never commissioned. Nearly $96 million USD has been spent in maintaining the reactor, with an annual cost of around $1 million USD to maintain present conditions. [5] In early 2008 the reactor was examined by members of the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess the potential to bring it online. [5] In 2011 another study was conducted that projected a $1 BN USD cost to rehabilitate the plant to functioning standards. In the summer of 2011 it was announced that the plant would be turned into a tourist destination.

© Michael Anderson. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] W. Bello, J. Harris, and L. Zarsky, "Nuclear Power in the Philippines: The Plague that Poisons Morong!" Rev. Radical Pol. Econ. 15, No. 3, 51 (1983).

[2] A. M. F. Lagmay et al., "Geological Hazards of SW Natib Volcano, Site of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, the Philippines," Geol. Soc. London SP 361,151 (2012): 151-169.

[3] A. C. M. Volentik et al., "Aspects of Volcanic Hazard Assessment for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Luzon Peninsula, Philippines," in Volcanic and Tectonic Hazard Assessment for Nuclear Facilities, ed. by C. B Conner, N. A. Chapman and L. J. Conner (Cambridge U. Press, 2009), pp. 229-256.

[4] W. Beaver, "Nuclear Nightmares in the Philippines," J. Bus. Ethics 13, 271 (1994).

[5] N. Onishi, "A Nuclear Plant, and a Dream, Fizzles," New York Times, 13 Feb 12.