The attention of the whole world is riveted on ongoing Japan crises of a 9.0 great earthquake, tsunami, volcano eruption, and–still developing–the partial meltdown in at least three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Three more reactors damaged in the tsunami are in similar danger.
At present, more than 200,000 persons were already evacuated from a 20- and 30-kilometer radius around the plant concerned. There were evidences of low-level radiation contamination as far as Tokyo.
The partial meltdown (and possible total meltdown) of nuclear reactors in Japan–despite several back-ups established with precisely the situation of earthquakes and other disasters in mind–underscored the constant and grave danger that nuclear fission power poses for countries that decide to utilize it. Japan is among those which embraced the technology and has cutting-edge capability for controlling and managing it.
Of course, the great earthquake-tsunami combination that knocked-out the reactors was not an ordinary disaster. The 9.0 earthquakes was the fourth strongest in recorded history and the tsunami it spawned was more than 13 meters in some places. However, it can be argued that Nature will always have the capacity to deliver disasters beyond the imagination of technocrats, capitalists, and politicians.
The big argument against the Bataan nuclear power plant (BNPP) in the 1980s was that there is no guarantee that can be made for the safety of nuclear fission power technology. Once a major nuclear leak occurs as a result of an accident or even when spent nuclear fuel is stored for hundreds of years, nobody can guarantee that it will not impact disastrously on the population for hundreds of kilometers around it.
In the case of BNPP, a possible nuclear leak can reach the entire Central Luzon and Metro Manila areas, as well as major parts of Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, and the Mindoro island. It is also situated near major faults and is vulnerable to tsunamis from the South China Sea quakes.
The Japanese experience has demonstrated that a well-disciplined and highly-skilled nuclear technical workforce and the vast resources of a rich nation cannot prevent nuclear power disasters. These can only barely cope with the containment of possible damage to the population and environment around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Japan’s nuclear crisis is a sobering lesson for us. Those who still advocate for nuclear power in the Philippines–either by reviving the BNPP or constructing new ones–should reflect deeply on the ruinous consequences to our people, our economy, and our environment of a major nuclear accident. With our relatively low level of nuclear technology, bare nuclear workforce experience and capability, and our limited resources, the possibility of the Philippines not coping with a major nuclear accident is exceedingly higher than that of Japan.
Nuclear fission power is dead in the Philippines and probably elsewhere in the world. The world will be more safer with other alternative energy sources.