Friday, March 18, 2011

Philippine Science Forum rebukes Science Secretary for backing reopening of Bataan Nuclear Powered Plant without undertaking scientific due diligence

 (Editor's note: We are reposting the following yahoogroups article from the Philippine Science Forum which critiques Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo's public declaration that he is for the reopening of the Bataan Nuclear Powered Plant which is situated on top of an earthquake fault and which has other unanswered issues that remain unresolved in their entirety. This public stand has been dramatized by the recent nuclear reactor disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powered plant in Northern Japan.)

The nonscientist Philippine science secretary backs opening of BNPP

For: the attention of Secretary Montejo
CC: President Aquino
From: Philippine Science Forum
Re: Despite nuke crisis in Japan, science chief backs opening of BNPP
The Philippine Star, March 17, 2011

from    a_c_de_dios
date    Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 1:26 AM
subject    [PhilScience] Despite nuke crisis in Japan, science chief backs opening of BNPP

I think we may be surprised in the end to know what is happening or what really happened inside the troubled reactors in Japan. It is unfortunate that the Philippine science chief jumps into conclusion even without the complete information at hand.

There are two sources of radiation inside every nuclear plant in
the world: the main reactor and the spent fuel rods. The uranium fuel rods could only be used for about six years - after that, it has depleted its U-238, to a point that it is no longer economical to keep using. These spent fuel rods, however, are still highly radioactive and are still producing a lot of heat that these need to be stored under circulating water - it takes another ten years before these spent fuel rods could be handled safely. Thus, in every power plant, there is a pool of water that contains the used or spent fuel rods. This pool needs to be circulated, otherwise, it will boil and cotinue to heat, and the zirconium casings protecting the radioactive material will oxidize. I think the main reactors inside the troubled reactors of Japan were not the problem - After all, the safety of these reactors have been greatly emphasized. So these are contained in super strong stainless containers, probably not just by one but two protective containments. The problem, I believe, concerns the spent fuel rods, the nuclear waste that these plants have been accumulating and stored inside pools, which, of course, are not, inside the strong stainless steel containers. The lack of electricity meant no circulation of water inside these pools.
And these pools began to overheat causing oxidation of the metal casing and production of hydrogen which then cause the explosions. If this is indeed the case, then the problem is almost unsolvable because chances are, the container holding these pools has probably been breached. Therefore, the pools could no longer hold water that is necessary to control the radioactivity of the spent fuel rods. Japan will still try to pour water into the nuclear plants in the hope that the cooling pools will be restored.

It is not only the integrity of a plant against an earthquake or
tsunami that is in question. The problem of nuclear waste still requires an answer and if the above is correct, handling and storing the spent fuel rods require as much attention. I think, if one then factors this, it could be easily seen that it is not really economically sound to build and operate a nuclear power plant. If a plant will operate for 36 years, it will have, by the end, an equivalent of 6-cycle nuclear waste (since the rods are useful only
for six years) - the design and construction of the plant that will take care of this waste will add tremendously to the cost. This is the question that I think the science chief needs to ask before backing the opening of the BNPP.

Angel C. DeDios

Associate Professor of Chemistry
Georgetown University

from    Ben O. de Lumen
date    Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 2:04 AM
subject    Re: [PhilScience] Despite nuke crisis in Japan, science chief backs opening of BNPP

Thank you, Angel.

This is a very sound scientific argument that should be published in PhilStar so that the public would be informed. As far as I know, this nuclear plant was built by Westinghouse during the Marcos administration and there was opposition to it because it is close to an earthquake fault but was built anyway because of -- money passing through some hands. We should be pushing more for Geothermal and hydroelectric energy sources where the Philippines has the experience and expertise. I visited a Geothermal site near Visayan State University in Baybay, Leyte and I was informed that it meets the electricity needs for all of Leyte (20% of the output) and the rest is exported to other places.

Ben de Lumen


Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology
UC Berkeley, CA 94720-3104
Phone: 510-642-8144

from    Ben O. de Lumen
date    Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 2:24 AM
subject    Re: [PhilScience] Despite nuke crisis in Japan, science chief backs opening of BNPP

Further notes about Geothermal Energy (GE).
The Philippines is the second largest producer of geothermal energy (GE) in the world (see below). We already have the expertise - why go for nuclear power?

More information from Wikipedia:

"Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than
those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels."

"In 2010, the United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants.The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California. The Philippines is the second highest producer, with 1,904 MW of capacity online. Geothermal power makes up approximately 18% of the country's electricity generation."



Ben O. de Lumen
Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology
UC Berkeley, CA 94720-3104
Phone: 510-642-8144

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