Russian ambassador: Bataan nuclear power plant revival 'not possible at all'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 4) — Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev believes the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is beyond revival, he revealed on Wednesday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Khovaev said the technology in the plant was "absolutely outdated."

"The safety standards, [the] international standards are much, much higher than the standards on which the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was built. So I think it's not possible at all," he said, referring to the plant opening.

Constructed under former President Ferdinand Marcos' regime, the Bataan plant is the country's first and only nuclear power station to date. The plant never opened due to issues regarding corruption and safety, compounded by the fear following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

LOOK: Inside a sleeping giant, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

Khovaev's statement comes after Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom conducted an assessment of the facility last August to determine if it was fit for commissioning.

Rosatom also previously announced it would look into the possibility of land-based and floating nuclear power plants in the country.

However, Khovaev clarified no nuclear infrastructure was in the pipeline -- and neither is the revival of the BNPP.

"It's not in our agenda... simply because the Philippine government didn't request us to do that," Khovaev said.

"The final say always belongs to the Philippines' side," he added.

The Department of Energy inked a memorandum of understanding with Rosatom on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Summit in November 2017. A Foreign Affairs Department statement in January clarified the cooperation covers various uses of nuclear energy.

The Department of Science and Technology also signed an agreement with Rosatom on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, which took effect in December. The agreement covers workshops, training of personnel, and the exchange of scientific information.

Russia: Don't fear nuclear tech

Khovaev said Russia was open to sharing "sophisticated nuclear technology" in other fields, such as agriculture and public health.

"We have advanced nuclear technologies which allow the extended shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables," said Khovaev. "If you are interested to export fresh fruits and vegetables to the Russian market, I think... it must be useful. We can sign the relevant contracts."

The idea comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new nuclear weapons in early March. However, the ambassador says there is nothing to fear with this "new generation of nuclear technologies."

Without name-dropping the United States, he even took a dig at one of the Philippines' longest allies.

"I would like to remind you that unlike your traditional ally and partner, my country has never used nuclear weapons or any other weapon of mass destruction," said Khovaev.

The U.S. used atomic bombs in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World War II. Its Cold War with Russia has also led to the development of more nuclear weapons, although they have not been used in combat.

"So believe me please. I don't see any reason to be worried here in the Philippines," said Khovaev. "We are your partners, your friends, and everything we are doing in the field of weapons of mass destruction is in full compliance with international law."

The ambassador also expressed the country's interest in supplying staff training and "sophisticated arms and weapons" — not necessarily nuclear in nature — to the Philippine military.

Following tighter relations between Manila and Moscow, Russia in October 2017 donated military equipment to the Philippines — particularly 5,000 AK-74M Kalashnikov assault rifles with 1 million rounds of ammunition.

"We are ready to help your country build your own defense industry," said Khovaev. "It shows we are interested in a long term strategic partnership with the Philippines."

Watch the complete interview with Khovaev here.

CNN Philippines digital producer Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.