Bataan nuclear plant unsafe due to ‘potentially active’ volcano: scientist

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·3 min read
This photo taken on April 5, 2022 shows a security guard walking in front of the main gate of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Morong in Bataan province, north of Manila, Philippines. The nuclear power plant built in the disaster-prone Philippines during Ferdinand Marcos's regime, but never switched on due to safety fears and corruption, could be revived if his son wins the May 9 presidential poll. (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)
This photo taken on April 5, 2022 shows a security guard walking in front of the main gate of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Morong in Bataan province, north of Manila, Philippines. The nuclear power plant built in the disaster-prone Philippines during Ferdinand Marcos's regime, but never switched on due to safety fears and corruption, could be revived if his son wins the May 9 presidential poll. (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

A Filipino-American geologist has criticized the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute’s (PNRI) claim that the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) was safe for rehabilitation, citing the existence of a "potentially active" volcano near the plant.

In a webinar by scientist non-government organization (AGHAM) on Saturday (June 18), Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that the worst danger facing BNPP is the possible explosion of Mount Natib.

Mount Natib is a dormant stratovolcano and caldera complex which occupies the northern portion of the Bataan Peninsula. It is classified by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology as “potentially active.”

PNRI director Carlo Arcilla has been pushing for the activation of the BNPP, saying that it was an option that could be included in a nuclear program and that some countries have expressed interest in activating the plant.

However, Rodolfo said that Arcilla mistakenly located the nuclear plant in 2005 and claimed that there was no direct fault running through the nuke plant although there had not been a scientific mapping of the volcano.

He noted that geologist Mahar Lagmay, now executive director of the University of the Philippines’ Project NOAH, was the first to map the area in 2009 and found that the “Lubao fault passes through Natib volcano and comes out right at BNPP.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Rodolfo urged the Philippines’ neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Korea, to advocate against the proposed revival of the mothballed plant.

"I hope that all of these countries will be so worried so that the international atomic agency will not allow us to open it. Of course, the nuclear industry is so crazy, who knows what they can do," Rodolfo said.

He added that chemicals that will be used in the plant pose a great danger to the locals.

"The biggest problem with the BNPP is [the] used fuel, after 4-6 years 20 percent of fuel assembly uranium remains, it’s very radioactive," Rodolfo said.

‘Focus on safer, cheaper, cleaner energy sources’

University of the Philippines assistant professor and structural engineer Joshua Agar in the same webinar said that the government should focus on safer, cheaper, and cleaner energy sources such as biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, ocean, and wind power.

"Yung ocean energy bago, paghahaluin yung warm at cold water sa ilalim at yun ang ipa-process ng turbine (For ocean energy, warm and cold water is mixed and processed by a turbine," Agar noted.

Around 57% of the country’s energy source comes from coal, 11% from geothermal, 7% hydropower, 3% from oil, and 1% from wind.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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