[People] Nuclear and Coal Plants Are Environmental Disasters by Fr. Shay Cullen

by Fr. Shay Cullen

Governments continue to create fear with warnings of possible terrorist attacks by bombs and shootings and the possibility of terrorists using stolen nuclear waste material as a Dirty Bomb.

They have promoted nuclear power plants and have played-down the real menace and threat to our survival poised by melt downs of rectors, nuclear weapons and radioactive waste. The world did not learn much after Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island disasters. This is changing after Japans earthquake and tsunami. The German Government has finally faced the deadly truth and last week made a historical irreversible decision to phase out all nuclear power plants in Germany in the next ten years. Austria made a similar decision a few days ago.

A nuclear blow out like that of Chernobyl has just been averted at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. Yet grave danger remains. A partial melt down of the nuclear rods in three reactors has occurred but the reactor did not explode.

The Philippines is 3,300 kilometers away and the prevailing winds do not blow directly from Japan to the Philippines. Nuclear power generation is cheap electricity but accidents are common we just don’t know about them. The safe permanent storage of deadly radioactive waste still eludes the scientists. There is just no way to make it safe. The waste from spent fuel rods and reprocessed military wastes will last for hundreds of thousands of years and every generation will have to guard the radioactive waste from being stolen by terrorists or released into the atmosphere by natural disasters, human error or faulty safety systems.

There are dozens of nuclear accidents at nuclear power plants and military nuclear installations around the world that are never reported. In the UK the Guardian newspaper tells of three accidents last February alone. Two consist of nuclear radioactive waste spillage, one at Sellafield in Cumbria, and another near Edinburgh and a scary breakdown of the emergency cooling system at Hartlepool, North-East England nuclear power plant. The report says these incidents indicate a design fault at the plant system. This is the greatest fear of all and an additional spillage at Sellafield is under investigation. New nuclear plant construction in the UK is on hold since the disaster in Japan. Yet the power and influence of the business tycoons in global nuclear power industry in government is massive. The dangers are so real that a few weeks ago Switzerland decided to phase outs its five aging nuclear power plants in favor of renewable energy such as solar and wind.

Meanwhile in the Philippines a bill in congress seeks to ban nuclear power generation forever. But the present danger to Filipinos and the environment is cheap dirty polluting asthma causing coal fired power plants. Instead we need clean renewable energy from solar and wind power. However more coal plants are to be built.

The new construction of a coal fired plant has started (illegally some say) on the Redondo Peninsula, Subic Bay under the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). It is to be built and operated by RP Energy Inc. an Aboitiz company in partnership with Taiwan Cogeneration Corporation (TCC). The SBMA has not developed the Environmental Regulations and Emission Standards needed to give a permit. But anyway a Permit to Operate has been given, despite the absence of the essential preliminary requirements such as Permit to Site Develop, Permit to Build, Permit to Occupy. These have been ignored so far.

The original agreement with the SBMA was for a joint venture and set special electric rates for the SBMA and Olongapo City and Subic municipality. These have been tossed out it seems and instead the power plant will just pay a measly miniscule Php 0.17 centavos a square meter a month for the huge site under existing land values it should be Php 0.25 per square meter at least per month. The value of the land is actually Php 500.00 a square meter.

The project has no social acceptance and has been rejected outright by the counsel resolutions of Olongapo City and Subic municipality. The resort operators around Subic Bay oppose it fearing destruction of the rain forest, the waters of the bay and the atmosphere. It will kill family tourism. The residents will be subjected to the dangerous particles and smoke belching 24/7 from the stacks. We have to stop this madness and go for renewal solar and wind power.

(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)


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