Southeast Asia’s Only Nuclear Plant is A Tourist Site, But That May Change
Filipino Wilfredo Torres was hired as a technician for Southeast Asia's only nuclear power plant in the 1980s, but has spent the past decade giving guided tours at the never-used facility.
The Philippines splashed out US$2.3 billion (S$3.08 billion) on the 621-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant completed in 1984, but mothballed it after the collapse of a dictatorship and the devastating Chernobyl disaster.
From 2009, the government opened the plant to tourists for a fee, helping defray the cost of maintaining it, along with an annual state budget that this year was 32 million Philippine pesos (US$612,000).
Now, there's a chance that Torres, 56, might get to see the plant in action before he retires in four years.
As power demand soars in one of the world's fastest-growing economies, the Philippines' Department of Energy has asked Duterte for an executive order declaring the Philippines ready for a nuclear power programme, said Gerardo Erguiza, energy assistant secretary.
Philippine power rates, which are not state-subsidised, were ranked the 16th most expensive out of 44 countries surveyed in a 2016 study commissioned by power retailer Manila Electric Co . Japan topped the list.
"With the need for cheaper, reliable power, nuclear is ideal," Erguiza told Reuters. "It's a template in successful economies."
Nuclear reactor builders Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd and Russia's Rosatom submitted plans last year to rehabilitate the Bataan plant, at costs ranging from US$1 billion to more than US$3 billion, said engineer Mauro Marcelo who oversaw the maintenance and preservation of the plant before he retired in March.
Other companies that have expressed interest include China's top nuclear power plant builder, China Nuclear Engineering and Construction, and Belgium's Tractebel, said Marcelo.
Rehabilitating the Bataan plant would be the shortest nuclear route for the Philippines, taking about five years all up, versus about a decade for a new plant, said Marcelo.