New proof of volcanic hazards seen on BNPP site

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Filipino-American geologist Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo sought fund support for two Filipino scientists so they can conduct a detailed hazard assessment of Mt. Natib where the 25-year-old mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant sits near as lawmakers eye its revival to fill a supposed energy shortage in the next two decades.

    Rodolfo drummed up support for Dr. Mahar Lagmay and Dr. Fernando Siringan as a self-funded geologic mapping by Lagmay and volunteers from the National Institute of Geological Sciences and Marine Science Institute, both from the University of the Philippines, found “much new evidence of volcanic hazards” around Napot Point where the BNPP is exactly located.

    “Young lava flows once emanated from a previously unrecognized eruptive center only five kilometers away. Young-looking deposits from at least five pyroclastic flows, a pyroclastic surge, and lahars occur near the plant,” Rodolfo said in a letter emailed to Punto Central Luzon. He sent the same letter to legislators, environmentalists, and leaders of non-government groups, people’s organizations and churches.

    Rodolfo offered to pay for the carbon dating of samples taken from some deposits.

    He said a detailed study has to be done because “when Ferdinand Marcos and his henchmen built the plant in the 1970s, they paid very little attention to the geology of Natib volcano.”

    “This lack of proper hazard assessment continues to this day,” he said, adding that Lagmay, Siringan and the volunteers are “now trying to remedy the situation.

    Rodolfo and Lagmay presented their reports on the geological hazards of the BNPP in the 29th annual meeting and symposium of the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering last July 23.

    In an interview in January, Rodolfo said “no protocol for safety standards” from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) existed when the construction for the BNPP began in 1976.

    It was only in July 1997 that the IEAE published Provisional Safety Standards No. 1 for volcanic hazard in nuclear power plant sites, he said.

    In July 2008, the IAEA made gave two primary recommendations to the Philippine government. It said that, “First, BNPP´s status must be thoroughly evaluated by technical inspections and economic evaluations conducted by a committed group of nuclear power experts with experience in preservation management. Second, the mission advised the Philippines on the general requirements for starting its nuclear power programme, stressing that the proper infrastructure, safety standards, and knowledge be implemented.”

    Contrary to what Philippine officials claimed, it said it was “not the IAEA´s role to state whether the plant is usable or not, or how much it will cost to rehabilitate.”

    According to Rodolfo, satellite images of Bataan and nearby provinces spotted several lineaments and suspected these to be faults.

    One of these cuts southwestward across the volcano for seven kilometers before disappearing beneath the sea. The rocks, he added, “display clear evidence of faulting.”

    He said Lagmay and Siringan applied for funding from the P100-million the House committee on appropriations approved on March 5 for a feasibility or verification study of the plant. They have not received any funding yet.

    The two scientists want to submit the study to the IAEA for an independent review by an international panel of experts, Rodolfo said.

    “The UP-NIGS volunteers are self-funded, fueled only by their enthusiasm for geology and their civic spirit. They know the research cannot wait until public monies are released, but their personal finances do not allow them to continue much longer,” he said. Marine geology around Mt. Natib, he added, cannot be done so cheaply.

    Rodolfo also sought help for Fr. Fernando Loreto, parish priest of Morong, the town that hosts the BNPP. “He understands the threats posed by BNPP better than anyone else but some of his parishioners remember the local prosperity while the plant was being built, and mistakenly think the good times would return [if] the plant were run,” he said.

    The 600-megawatt plant had not produced a single watt of electricity for Luzon even as the Philippine government spent $1.05 billion to build it. It incurred an interest of over P1 billion paid by taxpayers until last year.

    The National Power Corp. had maintained the plant at P30 million to P40 million yearly.

    Former President Corazon Aquino ordered it mothballed in 1986 due to safety and corruption issues.


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