Power market developments

Turning back to Bataan?

1 June 2010

Racked by brownouts, the Philippines is looking to return to civil nuclear power by 2030. Will it refurbish the mothballed Bataan plant, or choose the new-build route?

A feasibility study carried out by KEPCO has found that the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) in the Philippines can be successfully rehabilitated in four to five years at an estimated cost of less than US$1 billion. The reactor was completed in 1984, but never entered operation following the collapse of the Marcos regime in 1986.

BNPP, formerly the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant Unit No. 1, is located about 170km from Manila, on the west coast of Morong, Bataan in Luzon. The plant is a 650MW, 2-loop Westinghouse pressurised water reactor. The reactor and the other nuclear island components are still intact.

The decision whether or not to go ahead with the refurbishment of Bataan, or with the alternative of new build is expected in 2011, after the government issues its policy on going nuclear. The Philippines is holding presidential elections in May, and candidates are split on the issue.

The Department of Energy’s power development plan, currently in consultation, has placed a window on the development of nuclear by 2030.

“With the present clamour from various sectors to consider nuclear energy due the power shortages being experienced throughout the country, the country’s going nuclear would be coming very soon and earlier than 2030,” said National Power Corporation asset preservation department manager Mauro L. Marcelo, Jr. In March, there were four to twelve-hour rolling brownouts on Minandao, no reserve on Luzon or Visayas, and power shortages on all of the islands, he said.

The Philippines is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, with two-thirds of its energy generated from coal, oil and gas. The remainder comes from hydro (16%) and geothermal (18%).

The Philippines is collaborating with Korea, Japan, other nuclear countries and the IAEA on its plans.

In the area of regulation, a comprehensive nuclear law has been already filed in the lower house of the Congress. The law passes nuclear regulatory functions to the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute. Although the proposed law must make its way through both houses of Congress, and be approved by the president, it has been uncontroversial, Marcelo said.

In the area of recruitment the country plans to re-do what it did with BNPP: hire operators and engineers from operating conventional power plants and retrain and licence them.

Unlike many other new nuclear countries, Marcelo said that infrastructure (roads, grid etc.) would not be a constraining factor on new nuclear development in the Philippines.

New Build

The Philippines’ government has selected ten potential sites for a new reactor. It has asked the IAEA for assistance in carrying out detailed site evaluations to narrow down the list.

Philippines map
Ten sites for a potential Philippine reactor were selected in the late 1990s

In terms of design, Marcelo said that no decision has been taken on the type of reactor that will be deployed. “The Luzon grid can support a 1000MW unit, but the Visayas and Mindanao islands may only support capacities of 500MW,” he said.

As well looking at the refurbishment of Bataan, the government is considering building two 1000MWe Korean Standard Nuclear Plant units, using equipment from the aborted North Korean KEDO project.

According to the Joogang Daily, the Philippines has sent a letter asking the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy to sign a deal for the construction of two standardized NPPs in the Philippines, using equipment from the KEDO plants, which are being sold by KEPCO for $1.1 billion.

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Timeline: the Philippines' nuclear programme

February 1976: Contract signed between National Power Corp and Westinghouse

April 1979: Construction permit issued

June 1979: Construction suspended in wake of TMI accident

January 1981 : Construction resumes

May 1984: Hot functional tests completed, synchronization to the grid

June 1984: Fuel delivered

July 1984: IAEA OSART I construction appraisal review

February 1985: IAEA OSART II operational readiness review

June 1985: Public hearings on plant licensing

April 1986: Decision to mothball the plant for political reasons

December 1997: Fuel sold

February 2008: IAEA mission to Bataan

December 2008: KEPCO commissioned for 18-month feasibility study

December 2009: KEPCO recommends that Bataan should be refurbished

Philippines map Philippines map

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