PH Nuclear Research Institute: Bataan nuclear plant can be operated in 4-5 years if approved

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) — The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant can be operational in four to five years once all issues concerning the facility are settled, an arm of the Department of Science and Technology said.

"Halos tapos na 'yan, [pero] depende sa political will, we can run it in 4 to 5 years. Depende sa usapan yan," DOST Philippine Nuclear Research Institute Director Carlo Arcilla told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: The plant is almost complete, but depending on the political will, we can run it in four to five years. It depends on the discussions.]

In his first state of the nation address, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. called for a reexamination of the government's strategy to build more nuclear plants across the country. Even as a presidential candidate, he backed suggestions for the possible revival of the Bataan nuclear plant. 

The facility was built during the administration of the chief executive's father, late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. The younger Marcos claimed this was ordered shut due to political reasons.

Some of the issues to be settled are possible revisions to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, and getting the approval of the local government of Bataan to let the power plant run, Arcilla noted.

As regulator, he said they will ensure that the facility will be safe, otherwise it will not be allowed to operate.

The addition of nuclear power to the country's energy mix can help bring down the cost of electricity especially in areas not connected to the Luzon grid, Arcilla noted.

Rehabilitating the facility will also not be a problem for the government, he said. South Korea has offered to do the job for $1.2 billion, a lot cheaper than building a new nuclear power plant that could cost around $8 billion, he explained.

South Korea already has a model power plant that has been operating for almost 40 years where it can base the repair for the Bataan plant, he added.

The official said there are currently 450 nuclear power plants across the world, many of which have been operating for 50 to 60 years. In the United States alone, almost 100 nuclear power facilities are operating, supplying 20% of its energy, he added.

In February, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order establishing a nuclear energy program in a bid to tap more sources for the country's power generation. 

A special committee on nuclear energy was recently formed in the House of Representatives that will prioritize the development of nuclear energy as a reliable, cost competitive and environment-friendly energy source.