Manila, Philippines – Believe it or not, the 30-year-old, 620 mw Bataan nuclear power plant is brand-new. Mothballed since 1986 even before it had a chance to do a dry run, it has never been switched on, never been used.
Yet it can generate enough electricity to light up a province 4.5 times the size of Pangasinan, operating 24/7. Not only is it spic-‘n-span, in pristine condition, it has a twin sister, ironically named KORI II, that is a steady source of power for South Koreans.
According to Rep. Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan, Filipinos now spend more than Singaporeans for residential consumption of electricity. Maybe we are richer than Singapore, that’s why we can afford such high rates?
The congressman has a souvenir video showing him in Switzerland, kicking off his khaki pants, socks and shoes before wading into a pool directly under a nuclear plant, then emerging in his longish briefs and T-shirt to drink water from the pool. “Safe and clean,” he enthused. (The water or him?) Maybe we are more safety- and cleanliness-conscious than the Swiss?
His arguments favoring the opening of the Bataan plant – it will take three years and $1 billion – are buttressed by research comparing how much fuel is needed to operate a nuclear plant and a coal-fired plant for one year. For the former, a medium-size truck; for the latter, a train with coaches laid end to end on a 200 km track.
The mysteries behind nuclear energy – Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island – thrive on both facts and rumors. In the end, said the congressman, “It’s a societal issue. If the knowledge will not filter from upstairs to downstairs, it’s up to us to push from down to up.” And let the leaders follow.