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Bataan nuclear plant can be revived, says Russian state firm Rosatom

SOCHI, Russia — The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant can be revived despite decades of disuse, Russia's state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom said amid calls for the BNPP's rehabilitation.

"Our experts believe that if desired, it is possible to rehabilitate Bataan Nuclear Power Plant," Rosatom vice president for Southeast Asia Egor Simonov told GMA News Online in an emailed interview.

Simonov added that the conclusion "[was] not made after a rapid inspection or distantly."

"We conducted thorough inspection with the participation of the best specialists in atomic energy sphere, not only from Russia," he said.

Early in April, Senator JV Ejercito called on the government to consider the revival of the almost-four-decades-idle nuclear power plant. He said that Filipino consumers are charged an average of P5 per kilowatt-hour, but this rate can be reduced to as low as P1.80 to P2.50 per kWh using nuclear power.

Simonov said research revealed that despite being mothballed for 35 years with a limited preservation program, the BNPP "is in relatively good condition."

"In any case, all construction or rehabilitation works are under control of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) experts at all stages," Simonov said.

"That is why any doubts about Bataan Nuclear Power Plant safety are unfounded," he added.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) earlier declared that the power plant's site is safe, saying that the facility is built on solid foundation and that nearby volcano Mount Natib is no longer active.

However, Simonov added, reviving the BNPP may not be cost-effective.

"It is another matter to consider, will the rehabilitation of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant be beneficial for the country and should this path be followed," Simonov said.

"We assume that the rehabilitation option may not prove cost-effective," he added.

The government earlier pegged the cost of reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant at around $1 billion.

"Alternatively, we would advise to exploit the existing infrastructure and synergies of the Bataan site to build a new nuclear power plant—whether a large scale nuclear power plant or a small power plant based on a small modular reactor technology," Simonov said.

"Important to understand that nuclear power brings about numerous benefits for the country. Therefore, the nuclear power plant scenario should be given due consideration at the highest political level," he added.

In November last year, the Department of Energy and Rosatom signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the Philippine's possible foray into nuclear power generation.

Under the agreement, the Philippines and Russia will cooperate in several areas which include nuclear infrastructure studies towards national energy policy development and nuclear energy program implementation in the Philippines.

The two countries will also cooperate on the audit and assessment of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant’s technical condition, including the option of its rehabilitation.

Another area for cooperation is the conduct of feasibility studies on construction in the Philippines of small modular nuclear power plants, onshore or offshore, but not limited to analysis of technical, commercial, financial and legal aspects. — BM, GMA News

This story is produced during the Philippine media's visit to the ATOMEXPO International Forum sponsored by ROSATOM.