EXPERTS welcomed the recommendation of Korea Electric

Published by reposted only Date posted on December 3, 2009

Power Corp. (Kepco) to rehabilitate the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which has been mothballed for two decades.

“I hope they [nuclear experts rehabilitate] and open the nuclear power plant [as soon as possible],” Dr. Carlo Arcilla, director of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences, told the BusinessMirror at the sidelines of the national conference held by the Geological Society of the Philippines on Thursday.

Arcilla said Kepco has been running an “exact copy”—known as Kori 2—of the BNPP for two decades already, which explains the Korean company’s expertise on the same generation of the nuclear power plant.

“This [Kepco recommendation] tells me it is really feasible to run the plant [BNPP],” Arcilla said.

South Korea currently has 20 nuclear power plants and has six others being constructed, International Atomic Energy Agency data show. There are a total of 436 nuclear power plants in operation and 53 being constructed worldwide.

In the same conference, Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco said Kepco’s report confirmed the studies done in 1996 which said the rehabilitation of the BNPP is indeed feasible.

Kepco was commissioned by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) to do a feasibility study on the BNPP. Napocor president Froilan Tampinco told reporters on Wednesday that Kepco has submitted its report and recommended that “it is possible to rehabilitate” the nuclear power plant.

Asked by BusinessMirror on whether Napocor could go ahead with the rehabilitation and subsequent operation of the BNPP independent of the approval of his bill pending in Congress on the same matter, Cojuangco said, “My action [legislation] is independent of Napocor. The executive can decide on its own.”

But he quickly added: “A legislative mandate [which would allow the process go through public discussion] would make the people own it.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Alumanda de la Rosa, director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), told BusinessMirror in a separate interview that whoever will rehabilitate the BNPP will have to apply for a license with the PNRI.

“There should be a regulatory review. The PNRI is the regulatory body. They have to apply [for a license to rehabilitate the power plant]. They cannot rehabilitate and operate it on their own. There should be a regulatory oversight,” de la Rosa explained regarding the required process.

Kepco has not yet submitted an estimate of the cost and the time frame for the rehabilitation of the power plant.

De la Rosa said initial estimates of the rehabilitation cost were from $800 million to $1 billion.

Most of the equipment that need to be replaced involve the conventional side (control system and electrical), while the nuclear side (nuclear-reactor core) “is fine,” Tampinco told reporters earlier.

Asked if the Kepco recommendation was caused by its alleged desire to run the plant on its own, Cojuangco said Kepco is not interested.

“This is a small potato for them,” he said. “Kepco has 20 running plants, much bigger than BNPP in Korea today. They’ll be commissioning seven more in the next two years, and in the next five to seven years they’ll have a total of 38 running plants in Korea,” Cojuangco explained.

Cojuangco also dismissed fears on BNPP’s proximity to Mount Natib, a volcano.

“As it stands today Mt. Natib is considered an extinct volcano,” he said.

He explained that geologists who oppose the operation of BNPP could not find any evidence of any recent eruption of the volcano.

“They found a piece of charcoal carbon-dated to 150 years. We know in history that there was no eruption of the volcano between the last 150 years.”

He said that the charcoal could possibly be the product of wood burnt by forest fires in the area.

Arcilla said: “Personally I think it [volcanic danger to BNPP] is a nonissue.”

He said the two recorded dates of Mount Natib’s eruption was 27,000 years and 60,000 years ago.

He added that since studies have shown that no earthquake fault exists under or near the BNPP, “the issue should be laid to rest.”

Cojuangco said he is calling for a vote on House Bill 6300 but it is being hampered by the absence of a quorum.

“I believe that I can get it to a vote if I can get a quorum in the Congress. I can’t get a vote because everybody is now focused on the election,” he said.

Cojuangco authored House Bill 4631, which was consolidated with similar measures into House Bill 6300, that is seeking to recommission the BNPP. The solon argued that by 2013 the country will have a 3,000-megawatt energy shortfall that will put its economic activity to a halt.

He said renewable energy is “too expensive” for now and incapable of providing the country with the power of baseline capacity. –Lyn Resurreccion / Science Editor and James Mendoza / Researcher, Businessmirror

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