Sunday, March 2, 2014

A beach and a plant. A nuclear power plant.

Perks of having friends taking up their Masters is getting invited to activities that just remind you of school. Sometimes that means hanging out in UP, or in Trinoma/SM North where the UP kids burn long break hours (at least then, I don't know for today's students), and sometimes it means getting invited to school related activities such as field trips. I got to experience all of that, with the last point being crossed out just last Feb. 8.

Field trip's destination: the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant!

If the trip wasn't so educational, or the seminar wasn't data-centric, or the trip didn't stop by the beach for a buffet lunch/meryenda, or if didn't also serve us buffet breakfast, then I'd say the best part of the trip was that it was sponsored, aka all expense paid. BUT no. All of those happened, so picking my favorite part of the trip's a hard call. Shout out to my friends Kim and Nevin, of course, for inviting me!

I am all for renewable energies because, let's just say, I really appreciate ze gift of earth. This blog's a testament to how I just won't shut up about beaches, and continuously look forward to trips that are close to nature. Plus, Al Gore's campaign in An Inconvenient Truth made me think about a lot of things. Aside from renewable energies, I also was for Nuclear plants. That vote from me was put on hold though when Fukushima happened. Who wouldn't be alarmed with the news, and touched by articles saying that the older folks are volunteering to clean up the nuclear power station in order to spare the young? I honestly didn't get to research more of what happened there so the lazy me had BNPP in the "i don't know" zone.

With the trip, however, a few things got cleared up. I won't be enumerating everything, and I am not here to convince you of anything. I will merely share what I learned, and I trust that all of us here are smart enough to make our own research and make a judgement for ourselves. These are my top 4 learnings:

1. Fukushima, Chernobyl.

Always the first question is about safety. Nobody gives a damn about the cost savings, the efficiency, the benefits of pretty much anything as long as it poses some kind of health or safety hazard. The risks will always overshadow the benefits. And I agree with that.

So in a nutshell, the Fukushima plant's reactor cooling systems were damaged by a tsunami caused by a 9.0 earthquake. It's located about 10 meters above sea level, and designed to withstand a seismic load of 0.18g. BNPP on the other hand is located 18m above sea level, and designed to withstand a seismic load of 0.4g.

And then there's Chernobyl. I remember having seen a documentary about it in high school for a subject. Looking back, I don't really remember the objective of our teacher then, but most likely it's to let us know about the hazards of nuclear power plants. Maybe. I don't remember really, except that the effects of the damaged plant were hideous and unacceptable. But I also remember clearly that the Chernobyl was not designed as a nuclear power plant to begin with, and it was at the field trip that i learned that it was originally a weapons plant, converted into a nuclear power plant. It did not follow the standards of a nuclear power plant.

I'm still iffy about the safety, to be honest, even if according to the talk, nuclear power plants have caused zero deaths for the past 50++ years if we exclude Chernobyl (where 31 died, but it was not built to standard), and that nuclear power plants are built with "overkill safety factors". The fact that the BNPP is 30 years old is a big hump to get past to.

2. 30 years old.

Well, almost. BNPP will be turning 30 on May, and like I said, 30 years is such a long time. It's a generation already, maybe even 2 if we're talking about people generations (well gen gap's a little closer now but you get my point). The talk though says that the BNPP is actually one of the younger plants, being created and built at the tailend of the nuclear power plant boom in the 80s. And that for the past 30 years (almost 30, i mean), the plant has been maintained by our chemists (or chem engineers, i forget), including the daily use of Hydrazine, a rocket fuel used as an oxygen scavenger. This is to keep the pipes from corroding, and we use Hydrazine despite the fact that the pipes are made of Inconel - a corrosion resistant nickel alloy.

3. Radiation

This radiation perspective-setting was pointed out during the seminar. I don't speak the language but to put it bluntly, eating a banana gives you more radiation than standing for a year in front of a running nuclear power plant. IKR. Apparently, organic materials, like a banana, naturally contain radioactive isotopes. The numbers are: 0.01millirem for eating a banana, and 0.009millirem per year for standing in front of a nuclear power plant. And the talk says that nuclear power plants are much safer and healthier compared to other conventional power sources, aka fossil fuels, that are attributed to diseases of the lungs, some cases of cancer, and the immune system.

4. Coal and Solar

Oh ghad. This one involved computations on the whiteboard, and forgive me if i wasn't able to take notes. But the computations say 2 things: first, is that nuclear is pretty cheapass when you compare it to coal, because (among other reasons that i forget) with coal you'll have a lot of freight cost, where in nuclear only an extremely small amount is needed. And second, you'll need more than 4 times of solar capacity to generate the same amount of power as nuclear. And that's zero at night, during rain, and cloudy days, making it inconsistent and unpredictable.

There were more things there, but those 4 made most impact to my personal doubts. The group had interesting questions raised, but I can't remember them now cause what's clear was the surprise of being by the beach for our late lunch/meryenda!! HAHA beach and food how can you go wrong with that. Oh i know, by wearing chuck taylors? Lol. Oh if i only knew we'd be spending some time by the beach, at least my slippers would've definitely made it in my back pack. Summer vibes kicking in early!

Mini-tour (aka some photos), coming up!

Gandy doing some computations! UP reprezent!

Would be nice to sit-in at a seminar that believes otherwise. Knowledge iz power ya know!


Claire said...

Si Gandy naging classmate ko sa Masters haha!

Naku, I'm so inggit, I've always wanted to see BNPP! Nababalitaan ko madalas may field trip kaso di ako makapunta noon huhu.

Yung sa Fukushima, apparently, marami ring issues pala dun like political and conflicts of interest. (I learned about it last year sa summer program sa Tokyo). I used to be very pro-nuclear power pero after knowing the cause of the Fukushima disaster, I'm not so sure whether the Philippines can handle the huge responsibility of nuclear power. Ang kinatatakot ko din talaga sa Philippines, pag nagkaroon ng disaster, I doubt we can handle it gracefully. :(

ghoent said...

Haha galing! Na-meet ko si Gandy doon na lang, since friend of friends. Siya pala pasimuno nung trip eh haha. I think they still have field trips, just not sure of the schedule!

Agreed. Yung safety pa rin ang di ako maka-move on e. Yolanda happened and we (plus the whole world) saw how the Philippines handled that. Paano pa kaya kung nuclear power plant na ang involved. BNPP's wrapped in political issues too because it was a Marcos project, so that isn't really helping its cause, no matter how good the intentions (but i have no issue with that). Like you, the handling of the what-ifs is what's keeping me from just going for it.

Pero ha, taas na ng presyo ng kuryente. Currently at~P5.5/kWh, BNPP could put it down to P2-2.5/kWh. Huhu that would bring so much opportunities to the economy. Deym.

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