Previous to the Fukushima explosion were the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear accidents.

Mechanical and human failures caused the partial meltdown in TMI while human failure, design flaws, and poor operations manual are credited for the Chernobyl explosion.

The government should just demolish the BNPP and sell off its equipment for scrap before we forget the images of Fukushima blowing up and some smart-asses start pushing again for switching on the BNPP.

The risks of using nuclear power as an energy source outweigh whatever benefits we can derive from cheap power. As a matter of fact, one big accident can wipe out whatever gains were made.

Oh wait, radioactive fall-out is not all that bad. One good thing about it is there won’t be any need for glow in the dark condoms anymore.

Manuel Buencamino (241 Posts)

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.


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  • J_ag

    Trying to educate people about the differences in economic development is tough. Most especially for those who are already educated.

    TFP is a product of the broad mechanization of the labor process that encompasses all sectors of an economy including all its ancillary services producing lower prices and a greater specialization of the division of labor and demand for its skills. It starts at the resource level. (natural and human resources)

    It also affords more leisure time for all since work processes are automated and mechanized. First physical labor and now the mechanization of the human brain.

    This process was facilitated by fossil fuels that is not as cheap as in the past due to its non-renewability.

    Man’s voracious use of resources also will have its limitations.

    Hence the turn to nuclear energy. Because they say it cleaner and cheaper. Now that is a big canard and the son (Mark Cojuangco) of the man (Eduardo Cojuangco) who was one who participated in planning martial law in this country says so when his father made the government his subsidiary in his quest for wealth.

    Big business (both foreign and domestic) have made the government in the Philippines their subsidiary.

    That is tough when the profit motive is the best method for organizing societies.

    Government is supposed to act as referee. Big business deliberately starves it.

    • Bert

      Now, this I agree with J_AG. Broad mechanization of industries, both natural and human resources, and tempered with strict laws to insure competitive quality of products according to world standards, say like British, German or Japanese standards to be able to penetrate world markets, and not solely for domestic consumption. That’s the way to do it.

      If corruption can be minimized as well and greed diluted with some form of human consideration, then we’re on our way to the right direction.

      But first we have all to be united in such endeavor and not with the usual to-each-his-own-self-interest that got us stuck in the rut for so long a time already.

      • http://jesterinexile.blogspot.com the jester-in-exile

        “… the usual to-each-his-own-self-interest that got us stuck in the rut for so long a time already.”

        this is why, it seems to me, that PH won’t have its own version of the Fukushima 50.

  • Bert

    Of whatever industrialization that we are capable of doing ourselves here in the Philippines we can gauge its viability by looking at the way we’ve done it in the case of the manufacture of toothpicks. Of course we can do what we are capable of doing by way of industrializing, but the toothpick factories has closed down simply because toothpicks from China is cheaper. Can we imagine that, locally made products are more expensive than imported products here in the Philippines?

    With this kind of situation, it is so illogical thinking of the Philippines becoming an industrialized country.

    • UP nn grad

      bert: many of the made-in-China sold in Pilipinas are second-quality merchandise intended for sale in Europe or Thailand but had manufacturing defects like bad glue (for shoes) or wrong-batch plastic (for making memory cards).

      American and European firms (even Hongkong firms) will move manufacturing operations to Pilipinas except the cost of electricity (plus labor costs) are higher in Pilipinas than in China.

      • Bert

        Disagree with you this time, UP n.

        You see, toothpick is toothpick, whether it be made anywhere, and that’s just one of the examples.

        Why Philippine-made products are more expensive, let me count the ways:

        1. Mulcting and graft/corruption are so pervasive in the Philippines particularly by government regulators/agencies that manufacturing businessmen, whether local or foreign, can only recoup their under-the-table investments by adding them to the cost of their finished products.

        2. Philippine businessmen are greedy, always salivating for exorbitant profit but so miserly in providing adequate salary and benefits to workers. Substandard quality na, barat pa…gusto tubong-lugaw. Kaya payaman ng payaman pero ang mga workers ay pahirap ng pahirap.

        3. The labor cost in countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore is higher than that of the Philippines and yet they have comparatively better competitive pricing with their products, which attests to the veracity of my points 1 and 2 above.

        4. Cost of electricity? The provider of electricity in the Philippines are greedier, too.

        • UP nn grad

          bert: if you’ve seen various toothpicks, toothpick is not toothpick. choices among different varieties of wood, variations in toothpick design, variations not only in toothpick lengths but more important variations in the finish; variations in the packaging, even variations in the health-quality control (sanitary and safety conditions at manufacturing sites, health of workers). So… manufacturing defects (not acceptable for export to USA) can then be sold at a dirt cheap price to somewhere else.

          ayyy…. talaga naman, mabuti na lang with Noynoy, Pilipinas will progress vroom-vroom-vroom dahil walang korap, walang mahirap. Where have the quality items of the Ferdinand Marcos legacy gone?

  • http://deleted J_ag
  • http://deleted J_ag

    More on the human element and the emergency responders.

    Going back to 9/11 and the first responders. The NYPD, FDNY, PDNY and their priests. These men are public servants.

    Look at the emergency responders in Japan fighting the “devils fire.”

    So much is owed to so few. That culture backed by resources makes it happen. Look at the amount of resources being thrown into the crisis. Look at the worst case scenario.

    How far behind is the Phils from having that system and structure in place?

    • Cocoy

      Very far.

      But you know what the hardest thing to do when starting a new business? It’s starting. There is a time to just do it, and adjust tactics along the way.

      • UP nn grad

        Pilipinas can play catch-up to the “…culture of resources” of Japan by raising taxes in Pilipinas to raise the salary and provide better resources to Pilipinas first-responders.

        Of course, OFW’s may say “don’t even think of putting taxes on us — first-responders do not benefit us, we are not in Pilipinas!”

        And some folks living in Makati or Ayala-Alabang may say “…hah? Raise taxes! Unahin ninyo muna to cut the graft and corruption. Magtrabaho muna kayo, then susunod kami.”

        “… I already gave at the office” responses.

      • J_ag

        It is called industrial development. The major difference between Japan and the Philippines is industrial development.

        The earthquake in Japan has damaged transportations girds (roads and systems), power grids, water grids that affect their internal and external supply chains.

        The nuclear reactors in Fukushima alone was producing 6,000 megawatts.

        The difference in countries like Japan and the Philippines is what economists call TFP (Total Factor Productivity). Simple definition is producing more output from the same amount of inputs though mechanical/technological intervention.

        From the simple hammer to the nail gun from the banca/sailing vessel to steam powered steel ships.

        From the steam engine fired by coal to the reactor fired up by atomic fission.

        Even the innovation of rocket ships that put satellite communication that allow us to communicate and observe from above and monitor the heat signatures from the plant approaching meltdown.

        How long do you think it will take for the Philippines to have those system and structures in place.

        We all want to dream of being a first world country
        but we produce our food using carabao power for the most part.

        The Chinese community in Ongpin got tiered of being burned out without response form the fire department they organized their own volunteer fire department.

        Granted the more advanced industrial countries have the experience, resources (human and material) to defend against contingencies but the experience in Japan of having diesel pumps at sea level right in front of an ocean where the Japan Trench lies and like all nuclear plants around the world store spent fuel rods in water containers on site.

        There are 70,000 tons of spent fuel rods stored all around the world on nuclear plant sites. This will remain toxic for eons.

        This together with the long gestation period for building nuclear plants and the financial costs makes nuclear energy more expensive than coal in the long run in spite of the so called cheap operating cost of nuke power plants.

        That is why only government can build plants and the private sector do not build them without government subsidies.

        Just look at the long term cost of the problems of first putting out the devils fire and then the problems of decommissioning and storage of the plant with the costs of replacement.

        The opportunity loss to the entire Japanese economy. Now what if that plant were a coal plant?

        Now tell me that the cost of nuclear power is cheap.

        It is calculated that the long term cost of nuclear plants is $5m to $6M per megawatt. That is not counting the cost of any mishap during its lifetime.

        This is for a modern technological country like Japan. Now let us look at the Philippines. We have to start somewhere so let us start. But where?

        My suggestion is for people to try to understand where the hell society and the country is in the scheme of things.

        We have all been schooled and trained in varying disciplines. Unfortunately education is far different matter.

        • UP nn grad

          that’s too long a treatise, too complicated for those who want to believe that salvation is in He Who Has Been Chosen because his mother and him both say “…. walang korap, walang mahirap.” First-things-first… Truth Commission GMA-talsik-diyan!!!!

          Actually, there is brilliance in this OFW-as-economic-engine voodo-magic. Noynoy/Malacanang will defer the problem of job creation to those countries that Pilipinas-OFW’s go to, like Japan, Hongkong, Australia, Lebanon, Egypt.

          • UP nn grad

            Noynoy will do what GMA has done and what Erap and FVR and Cory have copied from Ferdinand Marcos — OFW’ism. Let the Hongkong’s and Egypt’s and Lebanon’s of the world figure out how to create factories or small-to-large enterprises and call-centers. Pilipinas will give them the workers they will need.

  • GabbyD

    everybody should be cool. nothing bad really has happened yet. we shouldnt lose perspective.

    the verdict this problem’s effect on nuclear energy is still not out. if they can fix this in 2 weeks, then thats good news. lets wait.

    • Bert

      meanwhile, those who are already exposed to radiation…just grin and bear it, :).

      that’s the price we got for wanting to have sustainable energy, haaaaay.

  • http://www.uniffors.com/ Manuel Buencamino

    The human race discovered something that it is still not capable of controlling. It does not even know how to construct a proper containment device.

    The test of a proper containment device is when all systems fail, not when everything is functioning as they should.

    Containment devices are supposed to never fail. But they do.

    • UP nn grad

      soon to come for Chernobyl — total entombment, a containment device designed not to fail at all, no doors, no access to anything else or anywhere else. One of the results is total impossibility of generating power to be used by human beings… details, details.

      Go Winds of Ilocos 2016!

  • http://www.uniffors.com/ Manuel Buencamino

    In theory nuclear power as a source of energy is good. In practice it is too dangerous.

    There is no such thing as relatively safe when it comes to nuclear power plants. It does not matter that the nuclear power industry has a “good record”. TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima is proof enough of what can happen when things go wrong. And there are so many things that can go wrong.

    Nuclear power plants are very complicated instruments. Anything can go wrong from design to manufacture of millions of parts to human error to forces that are unforseen and beyond anybody’s control.

    Nuclear power is good on paper. That’s why it should be framed and hung on a wall. And stay there.

  • http://deleted J_ag

    More on Japans nuclear incident.

    Human initiatives in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and a do or die attitude amongst the amazing men who are fighting what some have described as the devils fire will eventually win out.

    http://www.slate.com/toolbar.aspx?action=print&id=2288391

    The need for energy will eventually override objections to nuclear power in more modern societies.

    Here we still have to figure out how to get rid human waste safely (without contaminating our water systems before moving on to more complex issues associated with the devils fire.

  • J_ag

    While in theory economists and scientists do their math calculations assuming perfect conditions that may seem infallible to many, human and social systems are subject to breakdown in reality. Plus you add to this natural disasters.

    In the U.S. the government gives loan guarantees to make nuclear plants economically feasible thereby matching financial feasibility.

    However the government in the U.S. does have regulatory agencies with capacities and capabilities to engage the private sector whose main aim is profit and efficiencies.

    The main fact about nuclear energy is the danger of its being unleashed into the environment. The fact that nuclear fuel takes a long time to dissipate its energy is a major problem even after a plant shutdown and when the containment structure holds.

    The problem in Japan is a combination of containment and storage of spent fuel which remains dangerous. The natural disaster exposed this. While it looks like containment held the proper storage did not.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/159234/fukushimas-spent-fuel-rods-pose-grave-danger

    http://robertreich.org/post/3885073837

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16contain.html?_r=1&ref=tomjrzeller

    My take on those who support nuclear power should arrange that all families of the corporation that proposes it should live next to the plants and a whole section of territory maybe around 100 square miles be cordoned off permanently.

    Studies have been made that the cost of non-renewable sources of energy is way too costly and we have to continue to use carbon based fuels to fuel modern life.

    The danger of radiation poisoning of the environment remains even after plants are shut down.

    • Cocoy

      J_AG,

      Should the philippines have nuclear power? I’m all for it. There are reactors in the world that have been online for 50 years, and no fatal accident. Fukushima is a disaster. An investigation should be launched why the IAEA didn’t step in sooner. Also why the conflicting information coming out of the facility. Was Fukushima a level 4 event when it began? Absolutely. Has it spiraled out of control? Looks like it. Again, there doesn’t seem to be a coherent stream of information coming out of the site.

      Fukushima’s reactor survived 40 years in spite of the design flaws. And future designs and emergency plans will now incorporate lessons learned from Fukushima.

      Nuclear solves the immediate need of powering an economy. I happen to like the new reactor designs. They prove promising. I particularly like NuScale. The design is modular. You can add reactors as the need increases. You can take down a reactor and still keep the plant viable.

      Do I think we should keep developing solar, and wind technologies? Absolutely!

      But we also have to take into consideration, are they giving the most bang for the buck?

      Everything has a trade off J_ag. Nuclear fission has trade off in its environmental impact. Nuclear fusion is still a good 100 years into the future, if we’re lucky. (they are still experimenting in south of spain, spending 12 billion dollars). Honestly, imho, Solar i think is best bet with all the renewable energy sources. trade off is its expense.

      I think the answer would be to incorporate solar technologies for example into City design. William McDonough’s urban design was to incorporate various green technologies to power the city. He turned a city into an organism that breathes. I think the idea has potential. While McDonough’s Cradle-to-Cradle design in China fizzled out, the idea for me still has merit and worth exploring.

      • J_ag

        “But we also have to take into consideration, are they giving the most bang for the buck?”

        Firstly as far as the Phils is concerned we cannot afford it on so many levels.

        The cost of building one plus the cost of decommissioning and spent fuel storage are embedded costs that many do not add on top of the obviously cheaper cost of operation versus coal. That makes the cost per mgw almost the same.

        Apart from building the nuclear power plant there has to also be a safety and emergency response infrastructure in place for any emergency. Timing is critical in such emergencies. That is not counted in the costs and the public pays for it. The Phils. even now does not have semblance of that existing for normal emergencies.

        So much for cost benefit ratio.

        Hence the need even in the U.S. for loan guarantees.

        Also the industry cannot claim to have the best safety record.

        However the cost of an incident and/or accident may prove to be catastrophic.

        The main reason why solar power is not being pushed is basically economics. No one has been able to figure out yet how to monopolize free sun power. It is free sourcing.

        Look at the Philippines with its geothermal resources and sun. Let us get some coal, natural gas and the renewables in. Nuclear power is too expensive and dangerous for us.

        http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/bjsovacool1/English

  • Bert

    Not to dampen the enthusiasm of Cocoy for nuclear power plant but this earthquake incident affecting the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan will set back any plan of this administration to buy a new nuclear plant as replacement for the mothballed BNPP. Good luck to the next administration who may want to revive the plan but not Bongbong who surely will push for wind turbines.

    • Cocoy

      Not just PH, but all over the world. (I hope not!) Which is a shame really.

    • KG

      pwede din nyang sabihin na we could have been like Singapore kung natuloy ang bnpp.
      malay natin baka yun nga ang gawin nya sa 2016, lalo na pag lumpas na ang takot natin sa nuclear plants.

  • UP nn grad

    Hmmmm… think of this,too. BongBong Marcos 2016-elections campaign posters — Bongbong with his youngish-haircut and in the background WindPower windmills of Ilocos. “A man with vision! Elect me!”

  • J_ag

    Pass this along to all. First forget about nuclear power in this country.

    We do not have the capabilities or capacities in the private and public sector for it. Based on the direction of this country we may never have it.

    This was passed by Tom Keene on the nuclear power plant in Japan that is the subject of all the news.

    Good read…

    http://morgsatlarge.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors/

    • http://www.uniffors.com/ Manuel Buencamino

      Very reassuring although I think I’ll sleep sounder knowing that my electricity came from solar or wind or wave power generators.

    • http://www.uniffors.com/ Manuel Buencamino

      and here’s the result of a little background check on the guy who wrote that “what me worried?” blog post

      http://www.salon.com/news/japan_earthquake/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2011/03/15/josef_oehmen_nuclear_not_worried_viral

      • UP nn grad

        background check… haha hahaha… reminds me of Lila Shahani and leytenian uncovering dirt about bongV and benign0 when they (plus others) were fuming to get antiPinoy-dot-Com shut down.

        • http://www.uniffors.com/ Manuel Buencamino

          now why would anybody want that wonderful site shut down? Antipinoy makes me feel good to be a Pinoy living in the Philippines instead of in Australia struggling to prove that I can be white.

        • Felicity

          i don’t have many good things to say about Ms Shahani either…well actually I can’t think of any. BUT she did have good reasons for wanting to shut down AntiPinoy… slander is pretty serious stuff. I don’t understand why people have to talk shit in public. It’s just unclassy, uncouth and unsophisticated. Parang walang pinag-aralan ba.

  • GabbyD

    off-topic:

    i’m not a fan of side-deck (the pics thingie)

    • Cocoy

      Gabby,

      I put it in, and yes, I do agree with you. It is a kludge at best. will try to come up with something new for tomorrow’s headline.

      Cocoy

  • UP nn grad

    Now seriously, ManuelB, you don’t really think that Japan-Fukishima will result in Pilipinas Politicians between now and 2016 not approving the (foreign-originated) proposals for nuclear power plants. When there is wealth being promised for Pinoys in Pilipinas, Pilipinas politicians will know that Greenpeace demonstrators and a few others may need to be humored, but when all is said and done, they will be ignored.

    • Cocoy

      If history is to be judged, it would be a global thing, not a philippine-centric thing.

      • UP nn grad

        in twenty-yeasrs, who knows how many nuke-plants Pilipinas will have generating at 125megawatts of power per plant?

        But my prognostication is that Japan will probably have 3 additional nuclear power plants while at least 4 of the old ones have been mothballed/replaced with more earthquake/tsunami resistant architectures. China will have over 8 nuclear power plants. Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangladesh (yes, even the Bangladesh who has overtaken Pilipinas in 2010 as an economic-powerhouse (says theCusp)) will have more medium- and large-scale factories than Pilipinas.

  • UP nn grad

    Pinoys-in-Pinas are brave. Seriously. The buses on Buendia — still full!

  • Cocoy

    MB,

    As far as I know… BNPP is a shell. I’m uncertain where the fuel is, I think it was already removed from the site. I don’t think it can be turned on, even if people want to unless we build a new one. If i’m not mistaken too, the facility is still being inspected by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), which coordinates with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). I don’t think the condition it is now will be up to anyone’s specifications.

    As far as building a new one, I still think Nuclear brings more bang for the buck. Fukishima for example is a 40 year old plant. It was designed (if i’m not mistaken to withstand a 7.9 quake.) This was a 9.0 quake.

    As far as i’ve read, Fukishima incident is at the high end of probability. It shouldn’t happen. Station blackout is unheard of.

    Scientific American wrote, “”Reactor analysts like to categorize potential reactor accidents into groups,” said Bergeron, who did research on nuclear reactor accident simulation at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. “And the type of accident that is occurring in Japan is known as a station blackout. It means loss of offsite AC power—power lines are down—and then a subsequent failure of emergency power on site—the diesel generators. It is considered to be extremely unlikely, but the station blackout has been one of the great concerns for decades.

    “The probability of this occurring is hard to calculate primarily because of the possibility of what are called common-cause accidents, where the loss of offsite power and of onsite power are caused by the same thing. In this case, it was the earthquake and tsunami. So we’re in uncharted territory, we’re in a land where probability says we shouldn’t be. And we’re hoping that all of the barriers to release of radioactivity will not fail.””

    And now future nuclear design will more likely learn from Fukishima. I’m pretty sure the IAEA will launch an investigation on this. Lessons will be learned.

    I think the Philippines should be participatory to a nuclear reactor renaissance. There are new designs being developed.

    Am I still in favor of a nuclear plant for the Philippines. Yes, I am. As someone with experience buying and selling nuclear material in the PH, i know that the PNRI and IAEA are strict.

    Should it be stricter? Yes, I think so.

    Is training in nuclear safety mandatory for all those who handle it? Yes, it is. Should it be more stringent? Yes, I think so too.

    Should there be more security transporting of nuclear material? Yes. I think there should be tighter security.

    Should plant design incorporate the most unlikely scenario? I think it should. I’m sure the cost of the design would be scary, but I still think it should be done.

    Cheers!

    C

    • http://www.uniffors.com/ Manuel Buencamino

      cocoy,

      i think it’s better to look at other sources of energy.

      • Cocoy

        Manuel,

        Yep we should also do that.

      • Cocoy

        I’m all for having great sources of power— solar, wind, water, geothermal. We should tap into everything, imho.