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Solons revive debate on nuclear power in wake of Japan reactor meltdown

Lawmakers on Monday aired opposing positions on the use of nuclear power in the Philippines after the meltdown of two nuclear reactors in northern Japan, following Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and a devastating tsunami. Deputy Speaker Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III urged government to abandon all initiatives at reviving the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), citing associated risks similar to the nuclear reactor emergency now plaguing Japan. "If Japan, a developed country with the best possible technology and safety precautions installed to handle nuclear power is now having problems, I couldn’t imagine how we can possibly handle potential nuclear emergencies," he said in a statement Monday. He added that the Philippines' geographical location should make all advocates of the BNPP "think doubly hard" about the use of nuclear power in the country. “Aside from being prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, our culture of safety and disaster-preparedness leaves much to be desired," he said. Tanada issued the statement after the cooling systems broke down in the Fukushima power plant, giving rise to threats of nuclear radiation, against not only the quake-stricken nation but also its neighboring countries. Thousands of residents within the 20-kilometer radius of the nuclear facility have been evacuated since Saturday following an explosion and radiation leaks from its No. 1 reactor. The Aquino administration on Sunday allayed fears of a possible spillover of the radiation threat in Japan, saying the reactors’ meltdown poses no “immediate threat" against the Philippines. 'Environment friendly' Despite the situation in Japan, however, AGHAM party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones said the Philippine government should not cease exploring the possibility of using nuclear power. The radiation threat from Japan "remains dwarfed" compared to the economic benefits brought by the use of nuclear plant to the Land of the Rising Sun, he said. "Nuclear energy is environment friendly, and thus helps cut on greenhouse gas emissions. We can no longer separate the issue of climate change from our energy options," he said in a separate statement. Nuclear power "can provide sufficient energy for the country’s growing industry and increasing population," Palmones added. The government should also explore the possibility of using nuclear energy in the fields of medicine and agriculture, the party-list lawmaker said. House Bill 1291, which seeks to mandate the National Power Corp. to conduct a "validation process" on the BNPP’s possible rehabilitation, is now at the consultation stage in the lower chamber. — VS, GMA News