The catastrophe to come- nuclear power plants. Source: Fr Shay Cullen Preda Organisation, Philippines

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The catastrophe to come- nuclear power plants
Fr. Shay Cullen
03 July 2022 

When former president Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order that allowed nuclear power plants to be considered as a source of electricity generation in the Philippines, a wave of concern swept through the minds and hearts of the security, environmental, medical, and renewable energy thinking community. 

The Department of Energy officials started to talk about the possibility of building several advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), including floating SMRs, all around the Philippines. We surmise that the hearts of the energy tycoons and political cronies beat faster. 

  • The gray-haired veterans of the anti-Bataan Nuclear Power Plant campaigns, such as famous campaigner Professor Roland Simbulan of the Nuclear Free Philippines, will recall the hundreds of millions of dollars that were siphoned off the deal into the private accounts of Marcos cronies. Had the nuclear plant been operational, the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption and the many earthquakes would have likely caused a nuclear disaster. 

The real possibility of a nuclear accident is what rightly scares millions of people away from nuclear power as a source of electricity generation when there are many alternatives to renewable energy available in the Philippines. 

Solar and wind farms, hydro dams, geothermal, and biomass are all available and at much lower cost in comparison to nuclear, coal, oil, and gas imports. According to a report by the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC), the few existing renewable energy (RE) projects, especially solar and wind power have already saved the Philippines 4.04 billion pesos. 

  • Besides, renewable energy sources of electricity are free, thanks to nature. The wind blows, the sun shines and volcanic heat is always present for geothermal plants and delivered by nature without cost. They just need more investment and harnessing and they pose no danger. 

The Philippines has the highest electricity cost in Asia, thanks to energy corporations making secret, price-fixing deals with corrupt government officials. That is a form of corruption that cannot be cured. Can the government of Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. promote renewable energy projects without corruption and dirty deals by cronies? We hope so and all true honest Filipinos need to monitor and evaluate the projects. 

Nuclear power, oil, and coal power plants are damaging the health of Filipinos and the environment and generating huge amounts of CO2 that is causing global warming and dangerous climate change. This is damaging crops and the environment. Smaller fruit harvests like mango is one of the indicators. Mangos are splitting open on the trees because of the heat.

Following a strong earthquake or tsunami causing a nuclear accident at a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) would release radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere and widespread death-dealing cancer would result. The radiation that would escape will cause widespread contamination poisoning people, plants, animals, groundwater, and the ocean. Sea life will be contaminated if a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) was to leak radiation or if the cooling water is released into the ocean. Huge areas of land would be uninhabitable for hundreds of years and thousands could eventually die from cancers. 

Nuclear power plants such as Fukushima in Japan exploded on March 11, 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami; Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979 and the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine in 1986 show that the accidents released radioactive materials into the atmosphere and the ocean. The death-dealing radioactive gasses blown by the wind cause unknown amounts of radiation sickness in thousands of people. There is still long-term cancer and thousands of people are dead, some are still dying slowly. The governments and industry cover up the extent of the damage to health.

The latest nuclear technology SMRs are used in the USA, South Korea, and Russia. Germany is phasing out all nuclear plants due to public rejection of nuclear plants. Nuclear power plants are very dangerous in the Philippines since it sits on the Ring of Fire, an earthquake-prone area of the planet. Besides danger from devastating earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic eruptions, there are other potential dangers- human error. The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents were caused by inattentive engineers. 

The engineers on watch failed to notice the sudden temperature rise when water pumps, cooling the core rods, stopped operating. The steel and concrete dome at Three Mile Island contained most of the radiation but at Chernobyl, there was no dome and it exploded into the atmosphere contaminating Europe. At Fukushima, the reactor exploded into the sky, contaminating hundreds of square miles. Millions of people were evacuated, never to return. 

With almost everybody focused on their cell phone all the time, accidents will happen due to inattentive engineers. There are hundreds of such near accidents in nuclear power plants. They are caught just in time to prevent a disaster. The incidents are never publicized, just covered up. 

  • When the invading Russian troops entered the Ukrainian nuclear plant in Eastern Ukraine this year, they ordered all personnel to leave the plant and assemble in a hall. Such was the Russian level of ignorance they stupidly forced employees to stop monitoring the reactors. An accident could have happened at that time. When they captured the closed Chernobyl Plant, they were so stupid they dug trenches in the still highly radioactive soil still contaminated after 37 years. Soon, those soldiers will surely get cancer. 

Every Small Modular Reactor (SMR) is a ticking time bomb for terrorists of whom there are many waiting to get control of a plant and blackmail the nation by threats of blowing it up and contaminating the entire region. Even in Europe, security forces have intercepted communications of terrorists planning to capture a nuclear plant. Several attempts have been thwarted. 

Nuclear power generation is not a safe or feasible option anywhere despite all the reassurances and fake news by nuclear proponents. The greatest challenge is disposing safely of the deadly contaminated nuclear waste from nuclear plants, which will last for thousands of years. The Philippine Department of Energy consultant proposes burying them on a remote island. For sure, the contamination will leech into the ocean and poison the sea life and those who eat fish. 

The future of the planet and the human species is to stop burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, stop global warming and accelerate the building of renewable energy projects. Just 30 percent of the country’s energy supplies come from renewable generation. This has to double in the next few years if we are to save the nation from an economic meltdown with the rising cost of coal and oil, which we are experiencing everywhere today. 

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