The Department of Energy in the Philippines is reportedly considering the re-opening of the close Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) at Morong on the Bataan Peninsula west of Manila. The plant was closed immediately after its opening in 1986. The IAEA has been consulting with the Philippines government on the possibility, and has itself updated its work on re-starting suspended nuclear power projects. The proposal to reopen the BNPP has attracted widespread criticism in the Philippines on safety, regulatory and economic grounds. Scientific studies have emphasized the need for a complete reassessment of the seismic and volcanic risks, especially considering the location of the plant adjacent to three capable volcanoes: Mt. Natib. Mt. Mariveles and Mt. Pinatubo. The original BNPP project is considered a primary example of “odious debt” on the basis that the loans for the project were the result of corruption, and were known to be so at the time by the relevant international financial institutions. The Philippines government concluded debt repayment in 2008.

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

Location: 14° 38′ N, 120° 19′ E

Volcanoes in region of BNPP site

Source: Aspects of volcanic hazard assessment for the Bataan nuclear power plant, Luzon Peninsula, Philippines, A. C. M. Volentik, C. B. Connor, L. J. Connor and C. Bonadonna, in C.B. Connor, N.A. Chapman, and L.J. Connor (eds.), Volcanic and Tectonic Hazard Assessment for Nuclear Facilities, Cambridge University Press, 2009

Government sources


IAEA Advises Philippines on Next Steps for “Mothballed” NPP, International Atomic Energy Agency, Staff Report, 12 July 2008

Earlier this year, the IAEA was asked by the government of the Philippines to advise on the recommended steps to follow and matters to be considered in rehabilitating Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), a completely built pressurized water reactor that has been “mothballed” since 1986. A team of experts was deployed by the IAEA in February 2008 to counsel the Philippines government on the practicalities of revitalizing the plant. In preparing a report on the feasibility of rehabilitating the inactive plant, the IAEA made two primary recommendations. First, BNPP´s status must be thoroughly evaluated by technical inspections and economic evaluations conducted by a committed group of nuclear power experts with experience in preservation management. Second, the mission advised the Philippines on the general requirements for starting its nuclear power programme, stressing that the proper infrastructure, safety standards, and knowledge be implemented.

Delayed or suspended nuclear power plants exist in several countries scattered across the globe, and the IAEA has assisted countries on various projects in Eastern Europe, Argentina, and Brazil. The IAEA is not able to provide support for commercial decisions for nuclear power plants, as this falls outside of the Agency´s mandate. The IAEA is, however, able to provide assistance to countries who ask for technical support on a variety of delayed plant-related issues.

Restarting Delayed Nuclear Power Plant Projects, International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA Nuclear Energy Series No. NP-T-3.4, Vienna 2008. 


Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Wikipilinas [accessed 16 April 2009]

Useful timetable of recent proposals.

Five ASEAN countries going nuclear, Lyn Resurreccion, Business Mirror, 20101-01-17

Two decades after the 600-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) was mothballed, the Philippine government announced in July 2006, through its Science and Technology department, that nuclear energy is included in the long-term energy-development program of the Arroyo administration, an energy mix that also include fossil fuels, geothermal and renewable power. This led to the National Power Corp. (Napocor) asking the Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) to conduct a feasibility study on the BNPP last year. Napocor announced in December that Kepco has recommended that the BNPP could be rehabilitated. (Kepco has been running Kori 2, an “exact copy” of BNPP, for two decades already, making the Korean company an expert in the use of the same generation of power plant.) Last week Napocor said it would decide on whether it would recommend the recommissioning of the 600-megawatt BNPP after Kepco has submitted this month the cost estimate and time frame needed to rehabilitate the power plant.

At the same time, Napocor president Froilan Tampinco said the state power agency is yet to decide on whether it will take part in the rehabilitation of the mothballed BNPP, which was never operated since its construction was finished in 1986. He said Napocor prefers to do so with a legislative mandate. A legislative measure, House Bill 6300, a consolidation of four bills calling for the recommissioning of the BNPP and asking for a $1-billion fund, is still pending in Congress. The bills, which stirred debates in and out of the House, have Tarlac Rep. Mark Cojuangco as one of the authors.

Nuclear experts said the BNPP structure is within international standards, a “Mercedes-Benz” of nuclear power plants, having been built to withstand earthquakes—as manifested by its having been unscathed by the Pinatubo Volcano eruption in 1991. Likewise, Dr. Renato Solidum, director of Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, earlier said there is no active fault line in the area. And if a fault line exists, he said the BNPP could be reinforced “by engineering design.”

Early last year, Dr. Carlos Arcilla, director of the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines, disclosed to the Business Mirror an electrical resistivity survey he did with Bureau of Soils geologist Mario Collado, which concluded that “no distinct evidence of geological structures like fault and fractures are identified [beneath the nuclear power plant].” Arcilla has said that since studies have shown that no fault exists under or near the BNPP, the issue “should be laid to rest.” He added that the claim of volcanic danger to BNPP “is a nonissue,” saying that the two recorded eruptions of Mount Natib occurred 27,000 years and 60,000 years ago.

House approves P100 million for new Bataan Nuclear Power Plant study, Boy Santos, Philippines Star, 6 March 2009

The House appropriations committee approved yesterday a P100-million allocation for a new study on the viability of commissioning the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, senior committee vice chairman, proposed the new “validation or feasibility” study as a “compromise” to the bill of Pangasinan Rep. Marcos Cojuangco seeking the “immediate rehabilitation and commissioning” of the nuclear plant. The bill of Cojuangco is facing stiff opposition from many congressmen and civil society groups, as well as from Catholic bishops. The lawmaker is a son of billionaire businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. who has investments in power distribution and oil refining and retailing. Lagman said a fourth study has to be conducted to determine whether the nuclear plant could still be operated despite its being mothballed since the Marcos years due largely to unresolved safety issues. He said the results of three previous studies should be used as references by a group of local and international experts who would be commissioned to undertake the new study. He said the P100-million budget would be taken from this year’s budget of the Department of Energy and the state-owned National Power Corp.

Aspects of volcanic hazard assessment for the Bataan nuclear power plant, Luzon Peninsula, Philippines, A. C. M. Volentik, C. B. Connor, L. J. Connor and C. Bonadonna, in C.B. Connor, N.A. Chapman, and L.J., Connor (eds.), Volcanic and Tectonic Hazard Assessment for Nuclear Facilities, Cambridge University Press, 2009

Volcanic Hazard Assessment For Critical Facilities: The Example Of The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (Philippines), Alain C.M Volentik, Charles B. Connor, Laura Connor,  and Costanza Bonadonna, Geological Society of America, Southeastern Section – 58th Annual Meeting, 12-13 March 2009.

As the Philippines Government asked help the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help assess the feasibility of rehabilitating the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, the question of the site safety with regard to volcanic hazards arises, following the statement of the Union of Concerned Scientists that the proximity of the site to the potentially active Mt. Natib volcano is a major source of concern (D’Amato and Engel, 1988). Our analysis shows that, besides the obvious capability of Mt. Pinatubo to affect the site (BNPP experienced about 6cm of tephra fallout during the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo), both the nearby Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles are volcanoes capable to impact the site with a variety of volcanic phenomenon. Furthermore, we estimated the probability of an eruption of VEI 6-7 at Mt. Natib is approximately 6-9 x 10-5 yr-1. This yields a probability range of 2 x 10-3 to 4 x 10-3 for a 40 yr site performance period. Such probabilities are high compared to accepted values for many types of disruptive events at nuclear facilities. Our conclusions show that the BNPP is within screening distances for volcanic phenomenon such as, but not restricted to, tephra fallout, pyroclastic density currents and lahars in the event of a future eruption at Mt. Natib. Mt. Mariveles and, in a lesser extent, Mt. Pinatubo are also volcanoes capable of impacting the BNPP. Therefore, if the BNPP were to be rehabilitated, our analysis clearly indicates that the site needs a more comprehensive volcanic hazard assessment, such as the assessment the potential for new vent formation on the flanks of Mt. Natib volcano or an assessment of hazard posed by potential lava flows. Finally, we would recommend the implementation of monitoring techniques (i.e. seismic network) on both Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles.

Do Mt. Natib, Mt. Mariveles and Mt. Pinatubo have a credible potential for future eruptions? Future eruptions appear highly likely from Mt. Pinatubo, considering its last explosive eruption in 1991 and many other eruptions in the Holocene. Several lines of evidence indicate that future eruptions from Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles are credible, including the existence of an active hydrothermal system within Mt. Natib volcano, the presence of little-eroded volcanic features (e.g. caldera depressions truncating both Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles) and probabilistic assessment based on the estimated repose since the last-dated eruptive event. The probability estimate is highly uncertain, due to uncertainties in ages of past eruptions and possibly underestimates of recurrence rate due to poor preservation of smaller eruptions in the geologic record. This uncertainty supports a conservative approach to hazard assessment that assumes future eruptions are possible from Mt. Pinatubo, Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles. We have made such a preliminary assessment for a subset of potential volcanic phenomena utilizing a screening-distance-value approach. This analysis, made using relatively simple and widely available numerical techniques, indicates that the BNPP site has the potential to be affected by phenomena such as tephra fallout, lahars and pyroclastic density currents in the event of a future eruption. Cumulatively, these analyses indicate that Mt. Natib and Mt. Mariveles and, for tephra-fall hazards, Mt. Pinatubo, are capable volcanoes, following the definition provided by Hill et al.

BNPP poses not only environmental danger, but economic too, CBCP News Service (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines), 26 February 2009.

Dr. Giovanni Tapang, Ph. D., national chairperson of the nationalist scientists’ group, Agham and spokesperson of the Network Opposed to BNPP Revival! (NO to BNPP Revival) had assailed Cojuangco’s proposal to charge electric consumers 10 centavos (US$0.002) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) just to come up with $1 billion to make the BNPP running. He said the proposal is very unfair to consumers who have already suffered from soaring electric prices. “A surcharge of 10¢ per kilowatt-hour added to our monthly electric bill is not a small amount, especially to our poor countrymen, who already feels the effects of the world financial crisis,” the physicist from the University of the Philippines-Diliman stated. “Payments of this nuclear tax would continue for at least five years if they are set to reach half of the US $1 billion fund,” he added.
Meanwhile, Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas, the so-called protégé of the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, urges the Filipino people to do another EDSA uprising to stop the revival of the controversial BNPP. He said in a statement that the people must join hands to stop a government plan that not only poses as hazard to the environment, but is also unnecessary.

On the Safety of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Kelvin S. Rodolfo, Testimony given on behalf of the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance To the House Committee on Appropriations, 2 February 2009

On the Proposed Revival of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant: A position paper submitted to House Committees on Energy and Appropriations, Freedom from Debt Coalition, 2 February 2009

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is a glaring representation of the country’s fraudulent, wasteful, and useless debts. The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) also sees it as a symbol of the Philippines’ struggle against a debt-driven development strategy – often peppered with rent seeking and cronyism – that different administrations, including the current disposition, have espoused. To revive the BNPP would be to create greater social deficits and push the Filipino people deeper into the vicious debt and underdevelopment trap. FDC raises serious questions about the immediate rehabilitation, re-commission, and commercial operation of BNPP. We strongly believe that to make the “Monster of Morong” operational would be to gamble away the people’s lives on a lost deal.

Revival of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant a Source of Corruption? Ronalyn V. Olea,, 5 February 5, 2009.

In July last year, Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco filed the bill titled “Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Commissioning Act of 2008”. The bill has already been approved by the Energy Committee and is now pending in the Appropriations Committee. It has already gained 190 signatures in the House. In December 2008, the Department of Energy through the National Power Corporation signed a memorandum of agreement with the Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) to conduct a feasibility study on the possible revival of the BNPP. Bautista said, “The most probable reason why the Arroyo government, particularly the Department of Energy, is reviving the nuclear option is that it is a multibillion dollar project where fat and grease money will come in from foreign energy corporations and international financial institutions.” Bautista recalled that Marcos and his cronies are estimated to have gotten $80 million in kickbacks from the BNPP. He said that with the current administration, perceived to be the most corrupt, the BNPP would just be another source of corruption. The Aquino government sued Westinghouse for overpricing and bribery but ultimately lost the case in a United States court. San Miguel Corp., which is being managed by Cojuangco’s father, has already expressed interest in taking over the BNPP. The food and beverage conglomerate is diversifying into power generation.

Seven Reasons against the Revival of BNPP, NO to BNPP, 1 February 2009.

  1. The BNPP Bill lacks feasibility study.
  2. The BNPP is structurally defective and unsafe.
  3. The BNPP Site has an unacceptably high risk of serious damage from earthquakes, volcanism, or both.
  4. The BNPP is an unnecessary response to faulty power shortage projections.
  5. The BNPP would be costly to operate and accompanied by enormous hidden costs.
  6. The BNPP is a glaring testimony to the government’s continuing wasteful debt policy at the expense of the peoples’ welfare.
  7. The BNPP is not an answer to Climate Crisis, nor an alternative to Renewable Energy.

09 0214 NO To BNPP Bataan Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, SlideShare, 14 February 2009

Philippines Revisits Nuclear Energy Option At ‘White Elephant’ Plant, Adrian Addison, AFP, 8 January 2009

By 2011, the Philippines is expected to produce less electricity than it needs, and so now there’s a plan afoot to bring the gigantic, chipped and rusted white elephant to life. Doing so would cost another one billion dollars. “We have a nuclear power plant that’s already fully paid for that has never generated a single watt of power,” said Congressman Mark Cojuango, who has drafted a bill to recommission the plant. “And I don’t think it would be a big problem to evaluate whether this plant is viable and, if it is, why not run it straight away? I really believe that Bataan does not need that much rehabilitation.” The outside of the Westinghouse-designed plant is badly worn, with rusted ladders, crumbling masonry and jammed doors. Inside, the control room looks like the set of a 1970s James Bond film — there’s not a computer in sight and everything is analogue. But the massive turbine and the surprisingly small reactor look pristine to the naked eye. Cojuango studied an identical — and much cheaper — plant in South Korea which has run without incident since the mid-1980s. And he believes the people of the Philippines can be persuaded that nuclear power is the future. The Philippine government recently invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to evaluate the facility and did not rule out the possibility of the plant being put into operation. “We are seeing now perhaps a period of nuclear renaissance, a lot of countries in the region are going nuclear,” said Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes.

Napocor, Kepco deal may reopen Morong plant, Paul Anthony A. Isla, Business Mirror, 24 December 2008

Government-run National Power Corp. (Napocor) said it recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) to conduct a feasibility study for the possible reopening of the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant (PNPP) in Morong, Bataan.In a statement, Napocor said the MOU paves the way for a cooperation project with Kepco. The company said the nuclear reactor found in the PNPP has a “twin sister” in South Korea—the 650-megawatt (MW) Kori 2, which was commissioned in 1983 and has been operating since 1983

Gov’t warned on reopening nuclear plant, T.J. Burgonio, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 June 2007.

A Study of the Conversion Options for the Bataan (Philippines) Nuclear Power Station, Michael C. Clarke, Douglas R. Ebeling, and Donato L. Cordero, M.E.T.T.S. Consulting Engineers, January 1995.

The Philippine Government has previously stated that the Philippines will have nuclear power, but that power will come from new plant and not the Bataan reactor. President Ramos announced on the 8th October 1994 that the Reactor would be converted to a 1000MW combined cycle gas plant. We found that conversion is technically possible, but economically unwise. New and dedicated coal or natural gas fired power plants would give much higher efficiencies, and thus would give the Philippines much better value per peso spent on fuel consumed. The M.E.T.T.S.’s study concluded that the only way of obtaining a reasonable return from the Bataan ‘machine’ is to use it as a nuclear power plant.

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant history

500 Mile Island, the Philippines Nuclear Program, Walden Bello, Peter Hayes, and Lyuba Zarsky, Pacific Research, Special Issue, volume 10, no 1, 1st quarter, 1979.

Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and odious debt

Lenders, not borrowers, are responsible for ‘illegitimate’ loans, Joseph Hanlon, Third World Quarterly Vol.27(2) 2006

The Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown in 1986 and fled into exile with between $5 billion and $13 billon in foreign banks;20 he had stolen one-third of the Philippines’ foreign loans. The largest single debt of the Philippines is for the Bataan nuclear power station. Completed in 1984 at a cost of $2.3 bn, it was never used because it was built on an earthquake fault at the foot of a volcano. ‘Filipinos have not benefited from a single watt of electricity,’ said the national treasurer, Leonor Briones, but the Philippines still pays $170,000 per day for the power station and the debt will not be repaid until 2018. Marcos received bribes of at least $80 mn and much of the construction was done by companies in which Marcos had an interest. It would be hard for any bank to say it was acting in good faith by lending to build a nuclear power station on an earthquake fault. At least some of these loans must be odious. Loans for a nuclear power station on an earthquake fault bought by a corrupt dictator, loans to a state which is officially committing a crime against humanity, loans to an oppressive dictator who they knew would never repay, and loans to a dictatorship with the money staying in London satisfy all of the conditions for odious debts knowingly made. At this point, we argue that there is a prima facie case that at the very minimum, some of these debts are odious andthe liability and responsibility of the lenders. This is the critical assertion. The International Financial Institutions and other lenders have fought very hard against this, because until now they have not had to take any responsibility for incompetent and corrupt lending. International lenders realise that once a concept such as the British one of ‘extortionate debt’ is accepted for international debt, a significant portion of their past, present and future lending comes under scrutiny.

As table 1 shows, Indonesia has the highest level of dictator’s debt in the world. On 19 April 2005 the Philippine Supreme Court Associate Justice Reynato Puno urged the government to stop paying for loans for the Bataan nuclear power plant. He said the debts are ‘illegitimate and therefore should not be paid’ because the lenders ‘knew or had no reason not to know that the loans will be used for illegitimate purposes.’

See also

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research:
Arabella Imhoff
Updated: 17 January 2010