It’s probably the most expensive white elephant in Southeast Asia, costing $2.3 billion when it was built from 1976 onward. The construction cost was considered part of the odious debts of the Marcos dictatorship, which continued to eat up a huge chunk of the Philippine national budget for decades.

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was, however, never finished and was never operated after experts found at least 4,000 defects.

That did not stop many officials from proposing a revival of the mothballed plant. With the nuclear crisis now gripping Japan after the recent earthquake there, any idea to rehabilitate the plant would not only be foolish but criminal.

But there have been efforts to do just that. Rep. Mark Cojuangco, the son of Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco, has been in the forefront of such efforts to repair the plant at an additional cost of $1 billion. It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that this is merely a moneymaking scheme, for how can they justify repairing a nuclear power plant which was earlier closed because of thousands of defects?

“This is anomalous. A nuclear project, judged before as defective and corrupt, is being propped up again as a safe and reliable energy source by big-time politicians and wealthy families in the country. This would be another milking cow for traditional politicians and corrupt government officials in Malacanang,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, last year.

“We cannot imagine how the new proponents can make the BNPP safe. Its technology is almost obsolete. The plant lies on Mt. Natib, a volcano, and is also near major fault lines making it susceptible to earthquakes and other seismic activities. At the same time, nuclear power is an extremely dangerous technology, producing volumes of toxic and radioactive wastes, not to mention vulnerable to terrorist attacks,” Bautista added.

Cojuangco and his cohorts had better listen!

Fortunately, some congressmen — excluding Cojuangco, apparently — have reversed their earlier pro-nuclear position, prompting Greenpeace to challenge them to “author a bill that would declare the Philippines a nuclear energy-free zone.”

“It is unfortunate that Philippine nuclear proponents need a tragedy such as the one unfolding in Japan, for them to reflect on their dangerous propositions. But they should go beyond merely statements that they are reconsidering their position on nuclear energy, or are putting a moratorium on their nuclear proposals. Nuclear power should be removed from the country’s current and future energy plans: it should be deleted from the energy agenda, and there should be legislation to block all future nuclear proposals,” said Amalie Obusan, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.