Nuclear power is not an option, bishop warns Duterte

Bishop Alminaza hits back at minister's push to promote atomic power in the Philippines
Nuclear power is not an option, bishop warns Duterte

In this file photo, anti-nuclear power activists prepare for a cycle ride during an event in Manila to mark the anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown disaster that occurred on March 11, 2011. (Photo by Jay Directo)

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has called on the government to abandon any ideas of pursuing nuclear power to help fulfill the country’s energy needs, saying the danger it poses far outweighs the benefits.

The disasters at Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island show that nuclear power involves risks that are not worth taking, CBCP News reported Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos as saying.

“[They] are powerful albeit sorrowful reminders of the risks of nuclear power that we need not expose Filipinos to,” he said, adding that the disasters also occurred in countries that were more technologically advanced than the Philippines and were experienced in harnessing atomic energy.

Bishop Alminaza, a vocal advocate for renewable energy, was responding to reports that President Rodrigo Duterte was weighing up a proposal from Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi to look at pursuing the nuclear option to meet increasing electricity demands.

The proposal was reportedly brought up at a cabinet meeting on March 2. This followed a proposed executive order on the matter which was drafted by Cusi and submitted to Duterte on Feb. 20.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters after the cabinet meeting that Duterte would study the proposal.

Bishop Alminaza hoped that Duterte would reject such a move and pointed to past comments made by Duterte on the issue which indicated he was not keen on the idea.  

The bishop mentioned the president having instructed the Energy Department to promote renewable energy, which is “a cheaper and safer source of energy compared to the possible holocaust risked with nuclear power.”

“Energy from nuclear activities threatens human life and the lives of creatures great and small,” the prelate said.

The bishop also urged Duterte not to sign the executive order and instead tell the energy secretary to focus efforts on pursuing renewable energy.

“This is what would truly be beneficial for our people and would also serve as a concrete act of care for our common home,” he added.

Nuclear energy has been a contentious issue in the Philippines, with opponents also arguing that risks would be high considering the country is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons.

A nuclear power plant constructed in Bataan, 100 kilometres west of Manila, during the administration of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos was never fueled and was mothballed when such concerns were raised by opponents after it emerged the plant was built near a fault line and a volcano.

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