Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Grasping at Straws? by Jenny Tuazon

deadend1After a few days of browsing online forums and social networking sites, forum threads and news articles tackling the issue of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant’s, (BNPP) revival, are not so difficult to ‘Stumbleupon‘ if you’re an online activist. It is with that heavy online chatter of BNPP, Pros and Cons that made me realize that there really are a lot of people in high places who are steering the BNPP activation (again).

With all that online chatter about BNPP and nukes suddenly the prospect of a nuclear holocaust no longer seems far-fetched. You can accuse me of exaggerating, but absorbing that idea was difficult as hoping in the face of the mushroom-shaped cloud.

It wasn’t really surprising on my part to know that many people believe that nuclear power can and will make a great contribution to our energy supply, that it will harness the future of energy source in the Philippines. I have long been gone talking to people on street about nuclear technology – its cost, waste, and proliferation – when I was still doing direct dialogue work couple of months ago. I remember the first time I approached a pro-nukes guy on street, my blood immediately rushed to my head when he told me that nukes is the Philippines’ energy messiah.  His cards were these: Nuclear power stations have been built all over the world and many more are planned; Fast reactor means that supplies of uranium will last much longer; nuclear power stations use vastly less fuel to produce electricity than the fossil fueled power stations, with less immediate effect on the environment, and; we will live comfortably all the years ahead because of the sweet promise of nukes.

On the face of it, nuclear power SEEMS to be the answer to our energy problems. But wait, let’s take a closer look. Natural uranium is safe to handle but nuclear power is not as simple as it seems. Nuclear fission gives off dangerous radiation which is fatal. Can we just forget the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in 1986? Hell no. It was very catastrophic that even the next generation, or the next, will be informed about that.

At the moment it is thought that the best method would be to amalgamate the waste with glass and bury it in remote parts or even if they can make equipment very safe, we can never completely eliminate the factor of human error. We can never ensure that an accident cannot take place. The pro-nukes guy still clutched to what he believes in. He said all he wanted was to live a life of comfort and that he’s not an activist to start with. What dropped out of my mouth was this, “choosing revolution is not about being willing to give up your life, but being willing to give up your comfort” (thanks, Alice Walker).

Many conversations like this followed which made me learn 3 things to perhaps handle the blood rush: teach, explain but never debate. Teach and cite the facts you know. Explain the facts and say your stand. Lastly, never debate on things like nukes because nuclear power is the answer to a very stupid question, not the solution to climate change whatsoever.

Philippines is a third world country for crying out loud. It would be a mistake for developing countries like ours to go down a path which has ended in economic, political and social failure in some countries. There is only a finite amount to spend for new energy, thus investments in nukes is money denied to renewables. With about 50 years of failure and still no solutions to its basic problems, nuclear power remains an utterly poor choice. If our government would still push their rehabilitation plan for BNPP to eventually revive it, it would be right for me to conclude that they are just clutching at straws. This is just a bandwagon we cannot afford to jump in. We can never count on nuclear power solving our energy problems.

– Jenny Tuazon

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