Nuclear power’s real costs include waste and security -- Gatchalian

Posted on August 10, 2017

THE Philippines should evaluate its ability to respond to nuclear emergencies before embarking on a nuclear energy plan, Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian said.

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant -- BW FILE PHOTO
Mr. Gatchalian, the head of the Senate energy committee, said many questions remain about the country’s ability to deal with related issues like radioactive waste disposal and terrorism.

“I don’t think we’re ready to go into that. We don’t have the resources to justify going into nuclear power,” Mr. Gatchalian said in an interview on the sidelines of a legislative hearing on Wednesday.

His statement comes amid renewed calls to look into reviving the Bataan nuclear power plant, which was built during the Marcos presidency and was nearly completed, but never operated.

“Beyond the cost, we also have to look at the future, we have to look at the national security aspect,” he said.

In the past, Mr. Gatchalian has not laid out his position on nuclear energy as he was still studying its viability in the country.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong in studying nuclear energy,” he said. “But whether to go into that, nuclear power, is another question.”

Asked when he expects the country to be ready, he said: “That would be a question of resources, a question of budget, a question of capability.”

“I’m looking at the terrorism activities around the world. I have to pay attention to national security,” he said.

Mr. Gatchalian said his two recent trips to Germany “really opened my eyes to nuclear power and the attendant issues to nuclear power.”

He said the disposal of nuclear waste remains unresolved even in Germany, which he said had not found a solution on how to dispose of radioactive materials generated by nuclear energy.

“Forever ‘yang waste na ‘yan (That waste is forever),” he said. “Lahat ng kanilang disposal facility are temporary in nature (All of their disposal facilities are temporary in nature).”

He also said Germany stores its nuclear waste at a site that is guarded by the military and security personnel to bar terrorists from getting their hands on the radioactive material.

“That itself is a security issue,” he said.

“More than the cost of power, we have to look at the national security aspect of nuclear power and that’s one thing na hindi lumalabas (that hasn’t come up) because we always look at the cost. Pero hindi natin alam ang (but we don’t know the) national security aspect,” he said.

“In this day and age, the threat of terrorism is real. So we ask ourselves, do we have the ability to protect these plants and this nuclear waste? So we should ask ourselves whether we have the capability to protect these plants,” he said.

“In my own analysis, we don’t have that [capability]. We’re not ready. We’ve seen the problems in Marawi. We’ve seen that the military needs to attend to many things and I think we’re not ready to put a lot of effort in protecting a nuclear power plant,” he said. -- Victor V. Saulon