Metro Manila, Philippines— The use of nuclear energy in the Philippines may put the country in danger of terrorist groups, Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Wednesday.
“Radioactive waste will be a target, a magnet for the so-called nuclear terroristic groups that are scouting around the world for these wastes, or even just the raw nuclear energy to use in the production of nuclear weapons,” Hontiveros told CNN Philippines’ The Source.
She also said that nuclear energy in the country “would be taking steps backward into the past, not forward into a sustainable and peaceful future for the world.”
In an earlier statement, Hontiveros maintained that safety issues surrounding nuclear energy, including the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) remain unanswered.
“Radioactive waste will outlive not just all of us alive today but also the succeeding generations. It can prove fatal and cost people’s lives for thousands of years. Dahil hindi pa tayo makakampante sa ligtas na paggamit ng nuclear energy, dapat buksan na rin ang diskusyon kung may halaga pa ba sa bansa ang BNPP,” she said.
[Translation: Since we are not yet confident about the safe use of nuclear energy, we should open the discussion about the value of BNPP for the country.]
Hontiveros said she supports calls to realign maintenance funds of the BNPP for other economic programs.
Aside from possible security and health risks, there is also an issue on production since materials needed to produce nuclear energy will have to be imported unlike forms of renewable energy already available locally, the senator pointed out.
Hontiveros said alternative sources of energy have been identified even in the past.
Instead of nuclear, the country can utilize renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydropower, tidal, and biomass, which would not generate radioactive waste. These have the potential to take up a bigger share in the country’s energy mix without health, economic, and environmental dangers, she noted.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said earlier that he is seeking partnership with France and South Korea on nuclear energy.
For his part, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said that while he is open to discussions on such plans, he has reservations too.
“We also need to conduct a thorough evaluation of potential sites for the power plant and waste storage. Can this technology be efficiently utilized in an archipelagic country such as the Philippines?” he said in a statement.
“Lastly, we expect this investment would cost billions of dollars. How we can afford these power plants, if the investment would be cost efficient, and how long it would take us to get a return on investment are questions that need to be answered,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel said that a legal framework must first be approved.
“Then the regulatory body must be put up and should have approved the project before even a square inch of construction is started. There must also be a law on how the nuclear waste is managed,” he said in a statement. “In short, the decision to adopt nuclear power generation is not for the executive branch alone to decide.”
Aside from developing renewable energy in the country, the president said in his first state of the nation address that he wants to reexamine the government’s strategy to build nuclear power plants.
During the campaign period, Marcos has backed calls for the possible revival of the BNPP — built during the administration of his father, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos — which he claimed was ordered shut purely because of political reasons.
The nuclear plant in Morong, Bataan was mired in a string of corruption and safety controversies.