|Fig. 1: Battan Nuclear Power Plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is an interesting case study of nuclear energy. Completed back in 1980s and costing $2.2 billion, the BNPP currently stands in Morong, Bataan, atop Napot Point that overlooks the West Philippine Sea (as seen in Fig. 1). However, it never achieved its goal of generating 623 MW of electricity. The BNPP is currently the only nuclear power plant in the Philippines and more interestingly, was still the only nuclear plant in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as of 2014. 
Nuclear energy first came to the forefront of Philippine politics back in the 1950s when the U.S. gave the Philippines a nuclear fission reactor.  The government then formally established a nuclear program in 1958 under the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). The BNPP was then proposed in the 1960s and approved under the Marcos regime (1965 - 1986) in July of 1973. The final contract was given to Westinghouse Electric. The project was completed in 1984. 
Before, during, and after the construction of the BNPP, this power plant was surrounded by controversy. From President Marcos's connection to Westinghouse, to the dispute of General Electric and Westinghouse, to issues of following protocol during and after construction, the BNPP faced many issues that led to criminal charges being brought against Westinghouse. The whole controversy was described in detail by Dumaine two years after the plant's completion. 
One of the biggest controversies was the Marcos connection with Westinghouse. First, Marcos requested that National Power Co. (the government owned electric utility) negotiate a deal to buy two nuclear reactors. Westinghouse used connections to Marcos to strike the deal. Already known to be more expensive than other options, the Westinghouse contract jumped from $650 million for only one reactor to $2.2 billion. Later, evidence of large sums of money going to President Marcos himself was found. Westinghouse denied corruption accusations. 
Another controversy was how Westinghouse was able to gain the contract over General Electric. It is documented that National Power was negotiating with General Electric before Westinghouse came into the picture. However, once the connections between Westinghouse and the Marcos regime were established by Hermino Disini, a friend of the president himself, General Electric appeared to be strung along, as thought they were still in contention even though they actually were not. There is documentation that contract negotiations began before General Electric could pitch its proposal to the government. 
Additionally, there were issues during and after the construction of how Ebasco Services (hired for safety testing) were observing protocol. Librado Ibe, Marcos' top nuclear expert questioned Ebasco's work of checking the siting. He is documented as saying that he was offered bribes to approve the site for construction and reluctantly did end up issuing the construction permit in 1979.  After the construction was completed in 1984, William Albert, an advisor from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was brought in by new Aquino government to do inspections. Albert brought up issues of welding, working hours, base plates, pipe hangers, water values, and transmission cables. He attibuted all these shortcomings to quality control. Even though these issues were brought up to National Power, who had the final say whether the plant was to be operable or not, there is no evidence that the structural issues were dealt with appropriately. 
Currently, there are talks about the Philippines reviving the BNPP. This is mainly because of Philippine energy needs.  The talks about reopening the BNPP are being debated in the Senate, and there are voices on both sides of the issue. Proponents for reinstating the plant say that the energy source is cheap and that after the initial investment to upgraded the plant and it can help with the issue of the supply of electricity. However, opponents staunchly disagree saying that the revival of the plant is too expensive even to consider and that the money would be better spent on other electricity generation projects. 
Nevertheless, scientists are also still considering the plant's siting issues. There is still uncertainty about the eruption history of Mt. Natib, a volcano only a few miles away. Because of this problem and the proximity to active faults, seismologist are proposing to set up more sensors to do testing before reconsidering opening the BNPP to electric generation.  However, proponents of reinstating the plant as soon as possible point out the the BNPP was allegedly built to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis.  It is clear that the issue of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant will be talked about in the Philippines for months and years to come as the country tries to deal with supplying electricity to a continually growing population.
© Teo Camacho. 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.
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