This photo taken on April 5, 2022 shows an employee checking switches inside the control room at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Morong in Bataan province, north of Manila, in the Philippines. (Photo: AFP)
Pope Francis’s position on nuclear technology is clear. “The use of nuclear weapons, as well as their mere possession, is immoral,” he has said.
Those who cite the so-called advantage of mutual deterrence, that having nuclear weapons threatens mutually assured destruction (MAD), inevitably end up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any possible form of real dialogue. He said the dangers of nuclear weapons being used as a form of blackmail “should be repugnant to all consciences of humanity.”
The development of nuclear technology to generate electricity was hailed as a triumph of modern science. However, we must never forget that nuclear power was initially used in the first nuclear weapons, the atom bombs that wiped out two cities in Japan in World War II.
Therefore no one would dare use them again. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened that possibility in Ukraine. He is well aware that the nuclear bombing of Japan by the United States immediately brought about the capitulation and unconditional surrender of Japan.
Putin is making a similar threat to Europe over Ukraine. Is his game plan to threaten Europe to pressure Ukraine to surrender, the West to lift sanctions and stop supplying arms to the Ukrainian military?
"Nuclear power now remains a live option for the Philippines despite the danger it poses"
Russian troops have occupied Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and shelling areas close to it and blaming Ukraine. It’s absurd that Ukraine would destroy its own nuclear power plants and contaminate Europe. The visit of an international delegation of experts this past week should provide a report on the safety and dangers of the plant.
Russian shelling even knocked out the power line that fed electricity to the plant to maintain its cooling system. The backup generators kicked in just in time to prevent a very dangerous situation. If the cooling fails in a nuclear power plant, it explodes. Nothing can stop it.
That’s why the Philippines should stay away from the crazy notion of building module nuclear power plants. Enemies could capture one and hold the nation to ransom. If they are Islamic extremists, they might do it as they did to the Twin Towers in the 9/11 attacks the anniversary of which is coming close. A reminder that humans can do the most horrific acts of destruction without respect for human life.
The Philippines built the Bataan nuclear power plant almost 40 years ago following the 1973 oil crisis. The plant was never fueled amid the later nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Early this year, former president Rodrigo Duterte, approved a plan to include nuclear power to phase out coal and satisfy the increasing energy demand of the country.
Nuclear power now remains a live option for the Philippines despite the danger it poses.
When power stations fail they can bring widespread death and destruction and radiation that goes on killing people and animals for decades. The Chernobyl nuclear plant that exploded when the cooling failed has left a vast area uninhabitable 36 years later.
All nuclear plants are susceptible to catastrophic damage from natural causes such as earthquakes and typhoons as well as acts of terrorism. This reality should make the Filipino people reject proposals to build modular nuclear power plants, now that the Bataan facility is inoperable, outdated and beyond refurbishment.
"The Federation of American Scientists estimates that the UK alone has 190 nuclear warheads of which 120 are ready to fire at any time"
Disposing of nuclear waste is dangerous and very costly. The Philippine foreign debt is in the trillions of pesos already and the state coffers can barely afford to pay the annual interest. Further debt will sink the Philippines.
The threat of a limited nuclear strike by Russia on Ukraine is real. There is increasing tension between Russia and the five nuclear nations. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, China, Russia, the UK and France — said clearly in 2021 that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
And yet they are all upgrading their nuclear weapon stockpiles which tally 13,000 worldwide. That is considerably down from the total during the Cold War thanks to a treaty where all parties agreed to reduce the number. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that the UK alone has 190 nuclear warheads of which 120 are ready to fire at any time. They are all at the ready for MAD, primed to unleash a nuclear war.
Pope Francis said that disarmament treaties, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, “are more than just legal obligations. They are also moral commitments based on trust among states and among their representatives, rooted in the trust that citizens place in their governments, with the ethical consequences for current and future generations of humanity.”
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was due for renewal at last month’s meeting of the UN Security Council, but after years of negotiation, Moscow blocked the final document of the critical and urgent treaty because it mentioned the danger of Russian troops occupying and shelling areas around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant. Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she was "deeply disappointed" at the lack of agreement.
Most people live in ignorance of the terrible dangers that the powerful have wrought. A nuclear war would cause a nuclear winter, the resulting black clouds would block the sun for months or years and all life would die. That’s how bad it is.
We have to ensure that sanity, peace and rational dialogue prevail and reach a consensus of nations to live with mutual respect for all life — especially human life — and not mutually assured destruction.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.