Reviving the $2 Billion US Dollar Bataan Nuclear Power Plant - Philippines

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which has lain dormant since it was completed in 1984 at a cost of $2.3 billion US Dollar, will be opened to tour groups to teach them about nuclear power, said regional tourism director Ronald Tiotuico.

Tiotuico said the move was timely amid increased public interest in the issue following the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, caused by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

"It's a learning experience. You can see all the machinery, all the equipment and learn what happened in Fukushima and how it will not happen in Bataan," he told AFP.

He stressed that the plant was safe as the uranium fuel had been removed long ago.

The 620-megawatt plant, located in Bataan province about two hours' drive from Manila, was built under then-president Ferdinand Marcos to help deal with energy problems following the oil price crises of the 1970s.

But after Marcos was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1986, his successor Corazon Aquino refused to put it into operation, citing safety concerns such as the plant's location near an earthquake fault and active volcano.

It has since become a huge white elephant, costing the government millions of dollars in maintenance.

About the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (Philippines)

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is a nuclear power plant, completed but never fueled, on Bataan Peninsula, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Manila in the Philippines. It is located on a 3.57 square kilometer government reservation at Napot Point in Morong, Bataan. It was the Philippines' only attempt at building a nuclear power plant. It stands on a 357-hectare lot owned by the government. The plant is only 9 kilometers away from a dormant volcano called Mt. Natib. Because Mt. Natib stands between the Philippine Fault and the West Luzon Fault, seismic activity is likely to occur in the area and plant operation is deemed unsafe.

During the plant's construction, a Westinghouse light water nuclear reactor was installed. Had the plant been operational, the equipment would have used pressurized water to generate steam from the nuclear reactor's heat.

The reactor was capable of holding 1878 megawatts of heat energy. It would have generated approximately 621 megawatts of electricity.

The technology the plant was supposed to operate on was from the 1970s. Following the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, it was further improved in order to prevent incidents like the Three-Mile Island nuclear accident that took place in March 1979.

It was commissioned by president Ferdinand Marcos and building commenced in 1976. The plant's construction was completed in 1984.

When Marcos was overthrown and replaced by Corazon Aquino, the nuclear power plant project was scrapped. The Chernobyl accident of 1986 had the public protesting against the plant's operation. Another major concern is that the nuclear plant is located in an area where earthquakes are likely to occur.

To this day, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant has remained unused. Up until April 2007, the Philippine government had to pay 155,000 dollars every day to pay for the loan that funded the power plant's construction.

History of the Philippine Nuclear Energy Program

In 1958, the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established in accordance with Republic Act 2067 which was supported by President Carlos P. Garcia.

In 1973, the Philippine economy was under a lot of pressure due to the oil crisis. With the intention of finding an alternative energy source, Marcos decided in July of that year to construct a nuclear power plant.

Workers started building the power plant in 1976. Construction was put on hold in 1979 because of the Three Mile Island accident that happened in the United States. A survey of the unfinished power plant showed that it had more than 4,000 defects. It was also pointed out that one of the biggest safety issues behind the BNPP's construction was that its location was prone to earthquakes.

The BNPP was finally completed in 1984. Its construction cost the government $2.3 billion. With its Westinghouse light water reactor, BNPP was supposed to generate 621 megawatts of electric energy.

In 1986, the Marcos Regime ended and Aquino was installed into the presidency. In April of that same year, the Chernobyl disaster happened. This was one of the major reasons Aquino did not push through with the operation of the BNPP.

The Philippine government tried to legally charge Westinghouse Electric Co. for fraudulent schemes in the installment of the Westinghouse nuclear reactor. However, the United States court turned down the case.

Succeeding administrations were strained to pay off the debt incurred for the BNPP's construction. They also tried to come up with ways in order to convert the nuclear power plant into a fossil fuel-based energy source, but such plans were deemed economically infeasible.

In 2008, a team of surveyors led by Akira Omoto was commissioned to survey the BNPP for possible rehabilitation. The Philippine government is waiting on the team's report.

History of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

The Philippine nuclear program started in 1958 with the creation of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) under Republic Act 2067. Under a regime of martial law, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in July 1973 announced the decision to build a nuclear power plant. 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.

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. Among the issues raised was that it was built near major earthquake fault lines and close to the then dormant Mount Pinatubo.

By 1984, when the BNPP was nearly complete, its cost had reached $2.3 billion. Equipped with a Westinghouse light water reactor, it was designed to produce 621 megawatts of electricity.

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. Among other considerations taken were the strong opposition from Bataan residents and Philippine citizens.

The government sued Westinghouse for overpricing and bribery but was ultimately rejected by a United States court. 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.


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

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. 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. On February 1, 2010, National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) started evaluating the financial plan of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), assessing that it may cost $1-billion to rehabilitate the nuclear plant.

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. It requires an average of 40 million a year just to maintain it. In May 2011, it was announced that the plant would be turned into a tourist attraction.


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