By Jimmy K. Laking
As expected, the enthusiasm surrounding a plan to operate the mothballed Bataan nuclear power facility has quickly dipped just as fast as it was brought up.
It will remain, in my opinion, mothballed forevermore.
But first the hard facts. Billed as a 620MW plant, the mothballed facility was commissioned in the 1970s by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bid to produce a steady source of cheap power.
But in the same manner that the Pinatubo eruption in 1991 forced the Americans to scuttle their facilities at Clark and Subic, concerns about the plant’s nearness to a fault line along Mt. Natib forced government not to temp the fates.
And so it stood there for decades as a white elephant and as a testimony to a failed undertaking that never consulted stakeholders in the first place. But faced with the need to enhance its energy mix, the Duterte administration wondered if it could still be tapped. It also invited Soviet experts to assess the possibility of starting operation. To date, the Soviet experts have yet to issue a statement.
The revival plan has raised serious concerns. Duterte himself said the people of Bataan should be consulted first. Dr. Fabian Dayrit of the National Academy of Science and Technology posed the problem on how the government would solve the nuclear wastes emanating from the plant. He warned the hazardous by-product will last for thousands of years and is bound to harm the environment. He batted for the development of more solar, wind and tidal energy plants instead.
Phivolcs director Renato Solidum allayed fears over the plant’s safety, saying Mt. Natib is dormant and not likely to erupt. He downplayed other hazards, saying these can be mitigated.
What the Soviets or the Americans (who helped set up the plant) perhaps are not saying that the plant has been doomed from the start. It is not likely to take off the ground.
This is because while the Philippine government may have the ability to run the plant, its ability to ward off corruption and to instill a fool-proof facility with a highly-disciplined and professional management team is doubtful.
This is the reason I believe why the United States will never hand over to the Philippine government a single F-16 or any of its post 1990-built military sea craft. There is no guarantee that the Philippines would be able to safeguard these platforms with the zealousness of those out to defend the technological assets and secrets of the Stars and Stripes. In short, our discipline and reliability remain in doubt. This is not to demean the Filipino. In the United States air force and navy, countless Filipino officers have proven their worth and mettle.
But perhaps our forte as a people lies more in following orders than in implementing an undertaking. Look how our people are acting as if the COVID-19 monster is no longer around.
Better to scuttle the Bataan plant and ship it somewhere else.