|TO NUKE OR NOT TO NUKE?|
Nuclear energy is a form of energy created when atoms of two particles bombard each other and produces a chemical reaction. For the past 80 years, humanity has found ways to harness this form of energy to power its many activities --- electric power generation, vehicle propulsion and even as weapons of mass destruction.
There is no question as to how nuclear energy has benefited humanity. A lot of countries nowadays rely on this source of energy at a time when the prices of oil commodities are hiking up due to conflict in the Arab region. As compared to oil, nuclear energy can be produced in great quantities with just a small amount of fuel such is uranium or plutonium. For countries who have a plentiful supply of this element, either through natural supply or importation, they have managed to produce a steady and cheap supply of energy to power their countries economic growth. Nations such as the United States, Russia, China, Japan, United Kingdom and many more are having a nuclear renaissance.
Why can't the Philippines?
The first person to actually ask that question is former dictator President Ferdinand Marcos. In the wake of rising oil prices in the 70s due to the rise of Pan-Arabism and international terrorist networks as well as the Arab-Israeli Wars, President Marcos decided that its high time the country ventures into using nuclear energy for power generation. And thus, at Morong, Bataan, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) was born. Worth $2.2 billon, the plant was built by American company Westinghouse and was completed in 1983. However, President Marcos' overthrow during the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986 has stalled the plant's opening and operation. It was eventually mothballed after the 1987 Constitution instituted a ban on nuclear technology in the country both for military or peaceful purposes, motivated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the USSR a year earlier. Since then, the plant is under the care and maintenance of the Napocor for a cost of Php 40 million a year, aside from its debt of Php 21.2 billion in loans which was fully paid in April 2007.
Now that oil and gas prices are going up once more, triggering a domino effect of prices hikes in transportation fares and basic commodities, is it high time that we reconsider the option of nuclear energy for electric power generation? Former Congressman Mark Cojuangco believe so. In 1998, he set forward a bill in the House of Representatives calling on Congress to rehabilitate the mothballed plant so that it can pay on its own for the costs of its construction. He also reasoned that the plant could end the country's reliance on expensive and unclean fossil fuels to power our electric grids and lessen the consumers' burden of paying high electricity rates. He wants Congress to allocate the necessary funds to rehabilitate the plant ($800 million according to the Department of Energy in 2008). However, even after his term ended, the bill didn't push through. Nevertheless, Cojuangco is still adamant that the proposal will be considered in the future.
In the wake of an impending nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, the debate is getting hot once more like exposed fuel roads in a nuclear reactor. Should we go nuclear or not? What are the benefits and the disadvantages? Are the benefits greater than the disadvantages or otherwise? (To be continued)