By Myrna M. Velasco
The scale of rehabilitation cost required for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) may surpass the initially crunched figure of US$1.0 billion, according to industry experts who previously looked at re-powering probabilities for the mothballed facility.
It was gathered that refurbishment of its two steam turbines alone may command $1.2 billion – or roughly $600 million per turbine.
Additional costs will be required for the rehabilitation of the other plant components, thus, the estimate is seen climbing up close to $2.0 billion.
When asked on this, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said he cannot give a definitive figure for now, but rehab cost assessment will definitely be an essential part of an ongoing study preparatory to BNPP’s repowering options.
“The study is already ongoing. I think by the end of the year, we should know already the steps that we will be undertaking,” he stressed.
The energy chief said the government, through the Department of Energy, would be “inviting experts from different countries to submit up to January or February (2017) their respective inputs or assessments that shall be part of the study.”
The countries that have been signifying interest to help the country on its Philippine nuclear policy and framework – with focus on the BNPP- are Slovenia, China, South Korea, and Japan.
On the call of Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian that a nuclear policy must first be institutionalized prior to BNPP’s rehabilitation, Cusi assured that they will be having “consultations, coordination, discussion and exchanges of opinion” on the matter.
He said “we cannot just open a nuclear plant, so we have to follow all the safety and security procedures on operation. And for us to be able to follow that, we need knowledgeable people.”
Unfortunately though, he indicated that the country is already lacking in competence and experience when it comes to nuclear power operations, therefore, it will need to lean for now on the expertise of other countries.
“We don’t have human resource capacity. Even the engineer who’s currently involved in the preservation of BNPP is already retiring, what we just have now are the last of the Mohicans,” he said.
Cusi was able to convince President Rodrigo Duterte to reverse his stand on nuclear energy option, primarily that on the fate of the idled Bataan nuclear plant to be brought back to commercial operations.