Greenpeace organizes first ever eco-tour to BNPP

Feature story - June 11, 2011
Morong, Bataan – The controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) may finally open soon, but not – thankfully – as an operational power plant. A mixed group of journalists, nature and outdoor club members, travel bloggers, photography enthusiasts, tourism scholars and adventure race organizers today joined Greenpeace and local NGOs (non-government organizations) in entering the bowels of the BNPP to look at possibilities of having it as part of a tourism package, to be offered by the province, that would center around ecological aspects of the region.

Greenpeace initiated the exploratory tour in support of the announcement made last month by the Department of Tourism (DOT) that it intends to make the plant useful by transforming it into a tourist attraction.

“Greenpeace supports the decision to finally turn the BNPP into something more practical: a monument to remind people of the inherent dangers of nuclear power,” said Francis Dela Cruz, Public Outreach Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “There really is no point in trying to revive it as a power plant, which will only cost the Filipino people more – not just in terms of rehabilitation and operations, but also in terms of health, environment impacts, disaster preparedness, and sustainable development.  Japan and European countries, which have had long histories with nuclear power, are now moving away from nuclear.  We should already have learnt our lessons from Fukushima, from Chernobyl, and from the historical burden that we have experienced with the BNPP even though it was never operational.”

Construction of the BNPP was started in 1976 and completed in 1984, at a cost of US$2.3 billion.  The plant never went into operation, especially with the many challenges, such as proximity to fault lines and insufficient safety analyses, which were never addressed. But to this day, the mothballed plant still costs Filipino taxpayers PHP 40 million every year just for its upkeep. Proponents of both sides of the nuclear issue have been at a loss on how the Philippines can possibly cut back its losses from this white elephant.

“The intention with the ecotourism strategy is to make the BNPP a centrepiece of an educational aspect of the tour package that would show how nuclear energy can threaten quality of life, contrasting it with how technologies and practices that are more sustainable, such as renewable energy, can better benefit both people and the environment. Other possible activities that offer experiences with local wildlife and nature adventures will serve to round off the learning,” Dela Cruz added.  To this end, the Greenpeace trip included a visit to the pawikan (marine turtle) conservation centre, the Mt. Samat memorial, and an overview of the beautiful beaches, farms and nature trails that abound in the area.

Participants of the tour group invited by Greenpeace will be assessing the experience and asked to recommend possible activities and events that would highlight the attractions of Bataan both to boost local ecotourism and to possibly transform it into an example of sustainable development.

The BNPP will not be the first mothballed nuclear plant to be turned into a tourist attraction.  A nuclear power plant in Kalkar, Germany was turned into a theme park, “Wunderland Kalkar” in 1995. The plant, never operated, was constructed from 1977 to 1986. After its conversion to a theme park it receives some 600,000 tourists a year.