June 14, 2024

In recent months, the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant has been floated around as several experts believe it would greatly help in addressing the rising cost of fuel and electricity in the country. 

Director Carlo A. Arcilla of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) in a recent interview said nuclear has been existing for 60 years and could offer the cleanest source of baseload power at lesser cost.

He said the country’s current energy mix is composed of 60 percent coal which is imported mostly from Indonesia, and 20 percent from the Malampaya gas field.

He suggested nuclear can help in supplying the 20 percent presently supplied by the Malampaya gas field which is fast depleting. 

“Renewables at nuclear can complement each other. Wind and solar depend on the status of the weather. It also has only 30 percent capacity factor unless you have expensive battery,” he said. 

Arcilla said solar energy also requires one hectare of land to produce one megawatt, and this will become more challenging since the Philippines is an archipelagic country. 

“Nuclear is more of baseload energy meaning it is more reliable due to its continuous production of energy. It could provide backup for wind and solar.” 

In terms of nuclear waste, he recommended the “deep borehole disposal.” 

“One question is where we can put those nuclear waste? It is very challenging to manage the nuclear waste as it will last up to 10,000 years. So that, we need to isolate them from the human environment. Why deep borehole disposal? In the Philippines, we have the capability to drill up to three kilometers. So, what we can do is to get an isolated island, we drill up to one kilometer then we plug with bentonite.”

In the issue of safety, Arcilla said there were some accidents but have minimal casualties and are isolated incidences. 

“If you look at the number of hours operated by coal and gas versus nuclear; nuclear has one of the lowest incidents. Though if there is an accident, it could be spectacular. That is the issue. However, in terms of lives lost, it is minimal. If you are running nuclear, you are not burning coal; meaning it is not releasing carbon dioxide,” Arcilla said. 

He said nuclear, in general, will be helpful for all especially if risks are managed properly. If people have concerns with nuclear, he noted the United States has allowed the operation of 94 nuclear power plants with average lifespan of 60 years, supplying 20 percent of its energy requirements.

He said in 2019, the Department of Energy, through the assistance of Social Weather Station, conducted a survey of 5,000 Filipinos that showed 79 percent are in favor of using nuclear power for electric generation due to high electricity cost. 

“There were comments that nuclear is expensive. Definitely, it is expensive due to its huge capital cost. However, if you amortize it for over 60 to 80 years, it would become cheaper. Most importantly, it does not release carbon dioxide; it is the cleanest source of baseload power on Earth right now.

 Let’s work on the science, especially in this kind of issue. When we talk about life and death issues, we have to rely on science. It should be evidence-based and if the process of several studies has been transparent, let’s move forward, truth drives out fear,” he said. – Allan Mauro V. Marfal