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Pinoy UnderGround >> Revisiting the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant


6/26/12 6:11 AM
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Edited: 06/26/12 6:11 AM
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Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

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Bataan Nuclear Power Plant
Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is located in Philippines
Location of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant
Country Philippines
Location Morong, Bataan
Coordinates 14°37′45″N 120°18′49″ECoordinates: 14°37′45″N 120°18′49″E
Status Completed, never launched
Construction began 1976
Construction cost $US2.3 billion
 
Reactor information
Reactors operational 0 MW
Reactors under construction 0 MW
Reactor supplier(s) Westinghouse Electric Company
 
Power generation information
Installed capacity 0 MW
Annual generation 0 GW·h

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is a nuclear power plant, completed but never fueled, on Bataan Peninsula, 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Manila in the Philippines. It is located on a 3.57 square kilometre government reservation at Napot Point in Morong, Bataan. It was the Philippines' only attempt at building a nuclear power plant.

6/26/12 6:14 AM
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History

The Philippine nuclear program started in 1958 with the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) under Republic Act 2067.[1] Under a regime of martial law, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in July 1973 announced the decision to build a nuclear power plant.[1] This was in response to the 1973 oil crisis, as the Middle East oil embargo had put a heavy strain on the Philippine economy, and Marcos believed nuclear power to be the solution to meeting the country's energy demands and decreasing dependence on imported oil.[2]

Construction on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant began in 1976. Following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States, construction on the BNPP was stopped, and a subsequent safety inquiry into the plant revealed over 4,000 defects.[1] Among the issues raised was that it was built near major earthquake fault lines and close to the then dormant Mount Pinatubo.[2]

By 1984, when the BNPP was nearly complete, its cost had reached $US2.3 billion.[2] Equipped with a Westinghouse light water reactor, it was designed to produce 621 megawatts of electricity.[2]

Marcos was overthrown by the People Power Revolution in 1986. Days after the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the succeeding administration of President Corazon Aquino decided not to operate the plant.[1][3] Among other considerations taken were the strong opposition from Bataan residents and Philippine citizens.[1][3]

The government sued Westinghouse for overpricing and bribery but was ultimately rejected by a United States court.[4] Debt repayment on the plant became the country's biggest single obligation. While successive governments have looked at several proposals to convert the plant into an oil, coal, or gas-fired power station, these options have all been deemed less economically attractive in the long term than simply constructing new power stations.[2]

6/26/12 6:16 AM
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Anti-nuclear movement

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was a focal point for anti-nuclear protests in the late 1970s and 1980s. The project was criticised for being a potential threat to public health, especially since the plant was located in an earthquake zone.[3]

2000s

Despite never having been commissioned, the plant has remained intact, including the nuclear reactor, and has continued to be maintained.[2] The Philippine government completed paying off its obligations on the plant in April 2007, more than 30 years after construction began.[2]

On January 29, 2008, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes announced that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 8-man team led by Akira Omoto inspected the mothballed Bataan Nuclear power station on rehabilitation prospects. In preparing their report, the IAEA made two primary recommendations. First, the power plant's status must be thoroughly evaluated by technical inspections and economic evaluations conducted by a committed group of nuclear power experts with experience in preservation management. Second, the IAEA mission advised the Philippines Government on the general requirements for starting its nuclear power program, stressing that the proper infrastructure, safety standards, and knowledge be implemented.[5] The IAEA's role did not extend to assessing whether the power plant is usable or not, or how much the plant may cost to rehabilitate.[5] On February 1, 2010, NAPOCOR started evaluating the financial plan of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), assessing that it may cost $US1-billion to rehabilitate the nuclear plant.[6]

On February 22, 2011, the Philippine government will reimburse the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) ?4.2 billion (US$96 million) it spent for maintaining the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.[7] It requires an average of ?40 million a year just to maintain it.[8] In May 2011, it was announced that the plant would be turned into a tourist attraction.[9]

 
6/26/12 6:18 AM
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PerryScope
Perry Diaz

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

Located on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Morong, Bataan is one of the most — if not the most — expensive projects undertaken by the Philippine government.  The price tag to build the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) was originally $500 million for two 620-megawatt reactors.  Indeed, it would have been the biggest nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia at that time.  The project was started in 1976 and completed in 1984 at a cost of $2.3 billion!

Today, BNPP has not produced a single watt of electricity.  However, the government has been paying interest on the loan at a staggering amount of $155,000 a day.  That’s a lot of moolah! To put it in perspective, that’s enough money to build 50,000 Gawad Kalinga homes a year for 30 years, which would provide housing for more than 7,000,000 poor Filipinos.  That was just the interest.  You factor in the loan principal and another 10,000,000 poor Filipinos would have houses.  That’s 20% of the total population of the country.

What the hell happened?  After the Three-Mile nuclear accident in 1979, concerns were raised which prompted then President Marcos to create a commission to evaluate it.  The commission gave BNPP the thumbs-down and branded the nuclear power plant as unsafe to operate because it was in the middle of the Pacific “fire rim” earthquake zone and located at the foot of Mt. Pinatubo, an active volcano.  In spite of these red flags, the National Power Corporation (NPC) planned to operate it in 1985.  Public protests against its operation intensified.  When Marcos was deposed in 1986, the Aquino government mothballed BNPP.

Controversial project

From the beginning, the BNPP project was engulfed in controversy.  Two US companies — General Electric and Westinghouse — bid for the project.  Knowing that General Electric had past dealings with NPC, Westinghouse looked for someone to help them get the contract.  They found a hitherto unknown person named Herminio Disini. Disini’s credentials were “impressive.”  His wife was a cousin of Imelda Marcos and former governess of the Marcos children.  Disini was Marcos’ close friend, golfing partner, and  “business crony.”  Westinghouse allegedly offered Disini a 5% commission — or grease money — to secure the contract.  In 1974, General Electric submitted a bid for $600 million for two 600-megawatt reactors.  But NPC — in a stunning decision — revoked General Electric’s bid and awarded the contract to Westinghouse for $500 million for two reactors.  That’s a whopping $100 million in savings.  That’s a bargain.

The big problem, however, started in 1976 when Westinghouse adjusted the cost to $1.2 billion for each reactor.  In 1979, the cost increased again to $1.9 billion each.  Consequently, the second reactor was dropped from the contract.  By the time the nuclear power plant was completed in 1984, the total cost was $2.3 billion for a single 620-megawatt reactor.  Makes one wonder what really caused the cost of the project to skyrocket?  Most probably it was due to too many people dipping their hands in the cookie jar.  Disini, the consummate influence peddler — or “fixer”? — would have earned $80 million in commission.  However, Westinghouse claimed that Disini was only paid $17.3 million in cash.  To avoid the risk of being charged of bribery under United States fraud laws, Westinghouse allegedly paid Disini through its subsidiary in Switzerland.

Disini’s “rags to riches” story topped the news in the 1970’s.  Within a period of six years, Disini’s Herdis Management & Investment Corp. was transformed into a business empire of 33 companies with assets of more than $200 million.  Disini started acquiring all kinds of businesses including textile manufacturing, oil exploration, charter air flights, and construction equipment sales.   But the BNPP fiasco became his Waterloo.  In 1982, feeling the heat from the public, Disini fled to Austria where he bought a castle and acquired an Austrian citizenship including a nobleman’s title.

In March 2005, the anti-graft court, Sandiganbayan, issued an arrest warrant against Disini.  However, nobody knew his whereabouts.

Government inaction

The apparent inaction of government’s anti-graft investigators in the past 25 years has caused a great deal of embarrassment for the government.  In December 2006, the Inquirer reported: “More than four million dollars in Swiss bank accounts allegedly to be part of the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos crony Herminio Disini will soon be freed from a 20-year freeze order unless the Presidential Commission on Good Government succeeds in securing a forfeiture order from the Sandiganbayan.”

Thereafter, Disini’s wife and daughter filed a request to lift the freeze order on the Swiss bank accounts before the Swiss Supreme Court.  On February 21, 2007, the Swiss high court granted the Disini’s motion to lift the freeze.  Since the bank deposits were under the names of Disini’s wife and children — who were not defendants in the graft case — they should not have any problem withdrawing the money.  Disini probably had it all figured out when he deposited the money in a Swiss bank 25 years ago.

In April 2007, the Philippine government finally paid off the loan.  The last payment was $15 million.  An official of the Bureau of Treasury declared that BNPP is “officially off the books.”  Not too fast, pal.  The government is maintaining the unused power plant at a cost of  $3.3 million a year!  Should the government decide to demolish this “white elephant,” the demolition cost would be quite expensive.  In other words BNPP is not completely off the books.

Meanwhile, Disini is nowhere to be found and his wife and children are free to withdraw his ill-gotten “commission” on the Westinghouse deal.  And more than likely, the Philippine government cannot do anything to bring Disini to justice.

There has been some discussion in government circles about converting BNPP into a tourist spot to generate some income.  Why not?  Call it “Disiniland.”


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