The Honorable Mark O. Cojuangco, Congressional Representative of Pangasinan’s 5th District introduced a new bill in Congress Mandating the Immediate Re-commissiong and Commercial Operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Appropriating Funds Therefore and for Other Purposes. The Ilocano version of the Congressman’s introduction of the bill is on the Sison Official Website but for the benefit of our readers who are not at ease reading Ilocano, here is the English version.
Republic of the Philippines
House of Representatives
Quezon City, Metro Manila
Second Regular Session
HOUSE BILL NO. 4631
Introduced by Hon. Mark O. Cojuangco
Global Warming is now mankind’s greatest threat and greatest challenge.
The status and outlook of humanity’s conventional energy resources and its ever increasing negative interaction with our planet’s environment, $140 per barrel of oil, P10/kwh electricity, and the ever increasing manifestations of global warming, compel us as responsible leaders into making important and revolutionary decisions today.
These decisions affect the future viability and empowerment of our people to be masters of their destiny.
All these, compel us to look dispassionately at the options available to us in bringing the conflicting and opposing necessities and realities of; cheaper and more abundant energy and, a cleaner, more healthful, and non-earth damaging environment.
I believe strongly that these necessities and realities do not have to be conflicting and opposing.
Indeed, clean power, cheap power are words or phrases that, at first glance, seem to be oxymoronic.
But, can such phrases be true?
The Philippines has an asset, which has been paid for by society many times over, its original price or worth.
Certain sectors will claim it is so because of fraud, certain sectors otherwise and for other reasons.
To be sure, the reason why this asset came into being, and into disuse are, in my humble opinion, and in two words; NEED, and POLITICS.
Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is that this asset is now a part of the patrimony of the nation. It can forever be, a useless hulk or, it can be a savior of our energy situation and, a tipping point in our national outlook as far as energy and prosperity are concerned.
I am referring of course, to the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). 620 megawatts of clean, reliable and cheap power, just waiting to happen.
I realize that many of you are not convinced, that many of our people are not convinced. And also, that many, have very legitimate anxieties, apprehensions and fears about the possibility of the Philippines adopting nuclear power as an alternative source of energy, let alone to commission and run the BNPP as a viable and quick solution to our energy problems.
And so, I file this bill, a bill which seeks to make it a law, that our government do all it can to make the BNPP a safe, clean, and functional nuclear power plant.
At the very least, it is my opinion and hope that filing this bill will start or spark a national debate on the merits and demerits of nuclear power as a viable energy option. It will therefore be the means to a more informed public choice on the future of nuclear power in this country.
But let me state that I believe it is in the country’s best interests that the BNPP be operated. It is also my belief that the nuclear power option is still the best choice that the country can make to balance the supposedly conflicting needs of abundant power (energy), cheap power (energy), clean and harmless energy (power), for future and new power plants.
Let me also state the following facts, although not exhaustive, in an effort to inform:
ELECTRIC POWER AVAILABILITY
It is a recognized fact that power consumption is a leading indicator of a country’s propensity to progress or regress. Electricity consumption is considered to be a direct indicator of life expectancy, quality of life and prosperity specially in developing countries.
It is a national projection and fact that we will need an additional three (3) Gigawatts (3,000 megawatts) of base load capacity by the year 2012. To meet that need, and since it takes three to five years to build new plants, nuclear or otherwise, we need to be building the capacity TODAY, or face brownouts as we have in the past.
In the U.S., statistically, 30,000 plus deaths occur every year which are directly attributable to the emissions of conventional power sources. Zero (0) deaths per year are attributable to nuclear power generation. Even the accident at Three Mile Island on March 28,1979, which is considered to be one of most serious accident ever in the history of nuclear power plant operations, caused zero injuries and zero deaths. This was the same accident which caused the suspension and downturn of the nuclear power industry in the U.S., until recent times.
The deaths which occur every single year and which are attributable to conventional power are greater in magnitude to the deaths attributable to the one time event of Chernobyl. And yet, they are not sensational so as to be covered in the news.
In sum, for the last fifty plus years of Commercial Nuclear Power in the U.S., nuclear power, considering Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, has been and is, the safest and most reliable form of electric power generation ever invented by man.
Without operating BNPP, we already share in the nuclear risk without sharing in any of its benefits. There are many nuclear plants surrounding the Philippines, and there are nuclear vessels plying the waters around us.
Six (6) in Taiwan, Twenty (20) in South Korea, Eleven (11) in China, Fifty Five (55) in Japan. With the on-going renaissance of the nuclear power industry, these countries have nuclear plants either under construction or in the process of being purchased. A total of eighty one (81) additional units will come on line in the next few years. Aside from this, two of our very near neighbors, Vietnam and Indonesia have intentions to build six (6) units for their power needs. Malaysia and Thailand are both revisiting their nuclear options.
And yet, we reap none of the nuclear benefits or rewards.
The developed world, has realized more and more acutely, the impact of fossil fuel burning, most specially of coal, and CO2 emissions on global warming. They have come up with a system in the Tokyo Protocol by which the rich countries pay poorer ones a fee, to reduce or forego, carbon emissions.
More and more, the peoples of the world are beginning to perceive that burning coal and fossil fuels for energy is akin to pumping out nature’s septic tanks which took billions of years for nature and life to deposit. And thereafter, spreading all the filth around.
And so, today we see “Carbon Credits” being traded as a means to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
But, who is not to say that tomorrow, if the situation becomes more critical or urgent, the more developed countries may seek to ban, or impose sanctions, or duties on carbon emissions?
Without the technical alternative of nuclear, where will we be, then? What do we do then?
We can earn respectability in the international community by lowering our carbon footprint today. We can do this by running BNPP.
Today, commercial hydrogen comes from fossil sources.
The coming age in mobile energy consumption, will be the age of, THE HYDROGEN ECONOMY.
It will be an age wherein hydrogen will come from non-fossil sources, by mandate, more than by market forces and by necessity, more than by caprice.
Hydrogen, as a vehicle or vessel for energy transmission by direct hydrogen combustion. Or, by the use of hydrogen to synthesize/liquefy/gasify and/or extend existing carbon (fossil) and/or renewable carbon (biomass) sources. Or, by the direct conversion of hydrogen into electricity via fuel cell technology.
Hydrogen, will become the mobile fuel of choice.
This age will usher in pollution free power for mobile applications; i.e., cars, buses, trucks, etc.
When that age comes, where will we get our hydrogen from? Definitely not from fossil sources. That would be a self defeating exercise. By then, will we have the necessary nuclear infrastructure and capacity in place to enable us to generate the hydrogen that we will need to be participants in that new age? Or, will we again, be left behind?
To be truly ready to enter and be a participant in the coming hydrogen economy, we need a clean, cheap and reliable source of nuclear electric power to generate the hydrogen form non fossil sources. Running the BNPP will put us on that path.
NUCLEAR FUEL & THE ALTERNATIVES
Traditionally, the nuclear power industry has relied on Uranium for its fuel. There is enough Uranium in the world to last for many centuries at even increased rates of consumption.
There is also, another as yet under-exploited source for nuclear fuel. It is the element, Thorium. It is four times more abundant than Uranium in the Earth, and it increases the total source of fissile material by more than 400%.
This implies that energy resources for nuclear power generation are in great abundance, so as to be considered limitless on our time horizons, even if we consider our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren’s lifetimes.
CAPACITY AND COST
If made to operate, it would meet twenty percent (20%) of our expected shortfall of three (3) Gigawatts by 2012. This is not a small matter.
Nuclear Power is the cheapest form of electric power generation if you exclude the best hydro electric plants to which it is about equal. No hydro plants in the Philippines today approach these efficiencies because our water resources for hydro are of limited volume or flow rate.
The average generating cost of the industry in the U.S. is U.S. ¢1.66 or P0.73/kwh at P43 to a dollar rate. This cost includes waste disposal at U.S. ¢0.1/kwh and decommissioning at U.S.. ¢0.1 – ¢0.2 /kwh (source: World Nuclear Association) . Furthermore, the uptime reliability of nuclear power is upwards of ninety five percent (95%). A reliability which no other power generating technology can match.
A very many nuclear plants and other nuclear facilities in the world are located near geological fault lines. The BNPP is located on sound bedrock and its’ location is as good as that of any other comparable plant. It is beside a fault line. It does not straddle the fault line. There is a universe of difference in these two statements.
Top geologists have evaluated Bataan and, with the exception of Mt. Natib which is a dormant volcano whose last eruption was estimated to have been between 11.3 to 18 thousand years ago (Cabato et. al. 2005) and which is ten kilometers (10 km) from the BNPP, could find no anomalies in locating the plant there.
Mt. Natib is an issue that may be a contentious one. Its discussion in this note would be too lengthy.
Let me state therefore that it is an issue that demands our judgment.
However, as we take the issue up in committee, let me further just state for now that I believe the issue to be moot, for many reasons.
The BNPP has already been through several of such events. Most notably, the earthquake of 1990, and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. These events have not caused any effect on the BNPP. Its soundness of location, and its structure has therefore, already been tested in real life, not just in theory.
The BNPP site had been studied for eleven (11) years prior to the decision to purchase it in the 70’s. More recently, and again in the 90’s, it has also been evaluated and re-evaluated by the IAEA and has been found to be sound in accordance with their guidelines.
SAFETY OF DESIGN AND RELIABILITY
The design of the BNPP is not unique. BNPP has three (3) sister plants which were constructed simultaneously during the 70’s. These are the Krsko in Yugoslavia (which is Slovenia now), Kori 2 in South Korea and Angra 1 in Brazil. These three power plants have been in operation for over twenty (20) years now and, we have not heard any news that any one has incurred any minor or major accident. All have impeccable safety records. Further, the BNPP has cousin plants in the U.S. of earlier and later design with minor variations. Such as: the Farley Plant in Alabama; Palo Verde Unit I, II, & III in Arizona; Diablo Canyon and San Onofre Plants in California; Callaway Nuclear Plant in Missouri; Indian Point Energy Center Units 2 & 3 I New York; Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolina. These plants have also had impeccable safety records.
Many nuclear plants have applied for extended operating licenses of an additional twenty years from the initial forty years. Many have already been granted extended operating licenses.
By comparison, a coal fired power plants with an equivalent 620 MW to BNPP would;
1. Consume approximately 1.732M tons coal/year;
2. Emit approximately 4.588M tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) a year;
3. Spread amounts of Mercury, Cadmium, Lead and other heavy metals, Uranium, and Thorium in the ash or particulates which it spews out into the surroundings.
A coal plant therefore, concentrates these trace elements up to ten (10) times their original level (Sci Am Dec. 13, 2007) in its particulate emmissions and releases it into the environment. And because there are traces of Uranium and Thorium in the ash, a coal plant spews out radiation. The same is so with other fossil burning plants. And, if you think that a natural gas power plant is cleaner than coal, it is only relatively so. An equivalent 620 MW gas fired plant would emit ½ that of a coal plant or 2.65 Million metric tons of CO2/year.
No matter what the advertisements say, there is no such thing as “clean” coal. When you burn coal, the natural consequence is CO2. And although CO2 may be physically clean and invisible, it is the gas which is the major cause of global warming. It may be called “clean” but it is definitely harmful in the amounts at which we are spewing it out today.
The energy policies of France are; to emulate.
France today derives 80% of its electric power from nuclear, and a big portion of the balance from hydro.
As such, France has one of the lowest Carbon footprints of any country in the western world.
The French therefore, stand on moral high ground when harm to the Earth and global warming issues are discussed. It gives them a clear advantage in trade and economic negotiations with other countries of the world.
It also gives the French, the cheapest electricity in Western Europe, and one of the cheapest in the world.
We have listened to the greens from abroad and have given them great weight in determining our energy future. In the light of global warming, many of them, such as Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, and also members of other notable groups such as James Lovelock of GAIA, have now changed their minds about nuclear. These people now say that nuclear is the only viable energy alternative if we are to preserve the Earth. Shouldn’t we at least think about why these people have had a change of heart?
COST TO REHABILITATE
The alternative to the rehabilitation of the BNPP is an equivalently sized coal fired power plant or gas fired power plant.
Such a plant would supposedly cost between U.S. $900 million to $1 billion.
It stands to reason therefore, that BNPP should come in under these costs or at the very worst, at an equal to this cost.
But it is not quite as simple as that because we do have to consider the hidden costs and risks involved in building a coal or gas fired power plant, as I have maybe already overstated.
I personally believe that the cost should be at about half of a new coal fired power plant. My reasoning for such a conclusion will be argued at committee. I do recognize that there may be matters which I have not considered in my estimation of these costs but I am sure that they will be brought out in committee.
I believe that the reasons that I have put forth are both substantial and compelling. We have paid the price before as we pay it now, for our failure to look well at viable alternatives.
We, have become laggards in the regional economic competition. Our only saving grace being our OFWs. Our people, are having a hard time keeping up with, and competing with our competitors, and surviving the economic contests that determine who becomes prosperous and who does not.
Conditions are now right for us to take a second look, to search our souls, to use our minds, and to let logic and hope, rather than fear and ignorance, rule.
For these reasons and more, I hope that this bill will be vigorously supported. Our people deserve cheap power. Our people deserve the POWER, literally, to change and take charge of their lives.
The choice is ours. If we act now, we will still be ahead of the curve. If we wait until everyone else jumps on the nuclear bandwagon, we will be too late to reap low prices. We will be faced with shortages of manpower skilled in the art of nuclear power generation, and shortages in the capacity to build new nuclear power plants.
We are now at the same crossroads that we were in, at the start of the first oil crisis in the early 70’s and which ended in the mid-80’s.
This time however, it will be much worse as world demand for oil and coal have skyrocketed, with many new and large players (China, India) vying for the same limited resource.
There are many more detailed reasons and nuances to be debated and discussed regarding this bill. Too many to mention in this explanatory note and to be enumerated in the bill proper itself.
I have therefore decided to filter out these issues and reserve my arguments for committee and plenary deliberations should the bill reach that level.
But, the meat of the matter is that BNPP should be operated post haste and that the country should adopt a progressive nuclear power and nuclear energy policy.
As citizens of the world, we must do our part, in keeping the Earth as a habitable place. And yet, we must benefit from the effort, in a material way.
As they say in Ilokano, Di Ak Kita. Di Ak Pati. To see is to believe. With over fifty years of an impeccable safety record and proven economy and efficiency, what more do we need to see?
The power to change our future for the better is now in our hands. It has always been. God bless us.
HON. MARK O. COJUANGCO
If you would like to read the actual bill introduced by Congressman Cojuangco, download the file below:
RESOURCE: Thanks to Loejan Anudon for providing the translation of the speech and a copy of the bill.