Win OK with nuke, but against BNPP revival

win bnpp

Should the country decide to tap into nuclear power as a source of energy, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he’s open to it, but is against the reopening of the controversial 621-megawatt (MW) Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP)

Rather, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy emphasized that new and safer technology should be used. 

“Kung gusto natin mag-umpisa sa nuclear, mag-umpisa tayo sa tama,” Gatchalian said the latest episode of Power Podcast.

“Let’s start on the right foot by using new technology by using safer [and] smaller technology. Smaller because we’re not a big country,” he added, referring to the use of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). 

SMRs, as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency, are “advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300MW, which is about one-third of traditional nuclear power reactors.”

Yung mga ganitong SMRs, ‘yung mga maliliit – 30MW, 100MW – mas pabor ako diyan. At yung mga bagong technology na pwedeng i-recycle ‘yung waste, mas pabor ako diyan,” the re-electionist senator said.

Gatchalian mentioned that SMRs have the technology capable of recycling nuclear waste. However, SMRs are not yet commercially available. 

But while Gatchalian is in favor of nuclear energy in general, he is against the BNPP’s reopening – unlike his fellow senatorial bets – over safety concerns and its history of corruption.

“40 years old na yung planta, lumang-luma na. Isa nga sa mga criticisms sa nuclear power is safety. So, ang gusto natin gamitin is ang pinakabagong teknolohiya, pinaka-safe na teknolohiya. Hindi lumang teknolohiya dahil nga delikado,” Gatchalian said. 

“Itong planta [ito], nababalot sa controversy. Dahil controversial ‘to, merong pag-iisip na ‘Ah. baka shinortcut ‘tong plantang ‘to para lang matapos.’ So, babalik na naman tayo sa isyu ng safety. Dahil may corruption, baka naapektuhan ‘yung safety ng planta. Pag binuksan natin yan may problema tayo,” he added.

In June 2021, the Supreme Court ordered Herminio Disini, one of the late cronies of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos, to pay the government for the temperate damages in connection with the BNPP. 

Gatchalian’s primary concern when using nuclear power as an energy source is nuclear waste. 

“As a principle, hindi tama na pinapasa natin ang basura natin sa ibang henerasyon dahil saan naman nila itatapon ‘yun. At kung magkaroon ng disgrasya, sila naman maapektuhan,” Gatchalian said. 

According to the World Nuclear Association, the radioactivity of nuclear waste takes around 1,000 to 10,000 years. 

When sought for comment on Philippine Nuclear Research Institute Director Carlo Arcilla’s statement that nuclear power can be presented as a “green source of energy,” Gatchalian disagrees, considering that nuclear power plants produce waste.

Nonetheless, the senator sees room for consideration in the future.“Somewhere down the road, baka mangyari na renewable siya (nuclear power)” Gatchalian said. “But today, ‘di siya renewable, dahil ‘di mo ma-recycle ang nuclear waste.”

Catch the full episode of Power Podcast with Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on YouTubeSpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and Amazon Music.