Rushing to Reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant:

An ocular inspection of the 23-year old mothballed facility


Morong, Bataan


January 22, 2009




The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is a Westinghouse light water reactor, that uses pressurised water as its heat exchange medium between the reactor and the steam generators, The technology that is incorporated into the plant is essentially early seventies.


Nuclear reactor

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and AGHAM Chair Dr. Giovanni Tapang at the connrol room of the BNPP


    At the nuclear reactor area


Press Release
January 26, 2009

Scientists caution solons on move to reopen nuclear energy plant
Accelerated sale of energy assets makes power rates spiral upward

The recent news on the move to reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) reopens the debate on its safety, economic viability and sustainability. Scientists from the progressive group AGHAM or the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan cautioned solons and policy makers that these questions have to be clearly answered before making any decision on the rehabilitation of the decades-old plant.

"While the effort of the proponents and the government to reopen the plant seems to be in full steam, reopening the Bataan nuclear power plant should take into account the economic, technical and social aspects of the plant's operation," cautioned Dr. Giovanni Tapang, AGHAM National Chairperson.

"Even before considering using the plant, every pipe, every component, equipment or system has to be inspected by a competent independent team. Leaving the preliminary inspection to interested parties such as KEPCO is questionable", added Dr. Tapang. KEPCO operates a similar plant in South Korea and is interested in operating the BNPP.

According to news reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cautioned the Philippines not to let "commercial interests take precedence over safety issues" when considering the revival of nuclear energy options.

"The nuclear plant is being proposed as part of the plan to address a looming energy shortage as well as to reduce electricity prices. We wonder why Congress and the Arroyo government can mull over providing funds to reopen the plant and yet continue to push for the sale of other power plants under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA)?," asked Dr. Tapang.

"Even the reality of the plant being a solution to address climate change is being put into question by some experts since the nuclear fuel to be used in the plant has used embedded carbon in its processing," added the AGHAM chairperson.

"Instead of looking at nuclear power to provide cheap energy, President Arroyo only has to realize that most of the energy resources she has auctioned could have provided the Philippines cheap and renewable energy," said Dr. Tapang.

"The Philippines has many available energy resources from hydropower, geothermal, natural gas, wind and solar sources but these have been all put to sale by the government to private independent power producers (IPPs). Is the government now going to run the BNPP only to ask foreign operators to take over it?," asked Dr. Tapang.

"Proposed revisions to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to accelerate privatization leads us to expect more of the same in power rates: ever increasing pass-on rates from the embedded purchased power adjustments (PPA) and currency adjustments that has driven the prices of power to more than 10 pesos per kilowatt hour", pointed out Dr. Tapang, who is also convenor of POWER or People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates.

"If government was really serious in lowering electricity rates, it could have done away with the value-added tax, rescinded onerous PPA contract and scrap the EPIRA. If it was serious about addressing electricity supply then it should have provided funds to rehabilitate existing power plants and built new ones without depending on foreign investors to do it for us," said Dr. Tapang.

"Finally, government must deal with the genuine concerns of the community surrounding the Bataan nuclear plant as well as the general public. As nuclear power is not without any risk, there should be a serious evaluation as to the sustainability of operating the BNPP: how the economic, technical and social factors add up and whether this will be of genuine benefit to the people," said Dr. Tapang. ###


The Control Room of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant


At the Generator Room housing the 620 MW Westinghouse generator


Quick Facts


■   620 MW - rated power output

■   US$ 2.3 billion - cost of construction, fully paid as of 2007

■   US$600 Original bid price

■   0 (zero) watt - actual power produced

■   1976 - start of construction

■   1984 - completed construction

■   US$155,000 a day -- amount we paid until 2007 for the loan that was used to build the plant

■   Sen. Miriam Santiago and Rep. Mark Cojuangco - filed identical bills  for the rehabiliation and reopening of the plant


Where will the funding for the rehab come from?


The bill pegs the rehab cost at a maximum of $1 billion.


■  The amount necessary for the initial implementation of this Act shall be charged against the appropriations of the Department of Energy

■  Thereafter, such sum as may be necessary for its full implementation shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act as a distinct and separate item.

■  Charge each electric consumer 10 centavos per kwh for 5 years to be reimbursed to the electric consumers after such time that the BNPP shall commence commercial operations.




The operation is straightforward: the nuclear reactor heats up the water, which provides the steam to run the turbine which rotates the generator, which generates the electricity



How a nuclear power plant works



Rehabilitation of Bataan nuke plant pushed anew
01/22/2009 | 09:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Advocates of the utilization of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) on Thursday pushed anew for the mothballed plant's rehabilitation, saying this would help mitigate climate change and address looming energy problems.

Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, principal author of the "Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Commissioning Act of 2008," said using nuclear energy would reduce dependence on coal-powered plants that spew out carbon dioxide.

He also said this would entice foreign businessmen to invest in the country because of cheaper energy costs.

"Bataan [Nuclear Power Plant] can run in two to three years if we make the decision to run it today," Cojuangco said before a group of government officials, scientific experts, and other individuals present for an ocular inspection of the power plant.

He added that the plant can provide 640 megawatts of energy that can help fill in the needed 3,000 megawatts in 2012, when the country is projected to experience 24-hour brownouts.

Cojuangco said that while he has nothing against other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, nuclear energy-derived electricity would be more reliable as it is not "erratic" like other power sources dependent on weather conditions.

At the same time, the lawmaker allayed fears over the safety of nuclear energy, saying experts have pegged the maximum radiation leak an individual can take at 1 millirem a year-roughly the same amount of radiation a person gets from eating one banana, he said.

Cojuangco said he is confident that the BNPP - which was built in the Martial Law era but never went operational after it was closed down in 1986 after the Chernobyl disaster - will be ready for operations pending validation that some parts have not deteriorated.

"It is my contention that the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is ready to run with only a few work that needs to be done," Cojuangco said, noting that some parts of the plant would have to be upgraded to keep up with the times.

Chances in House

Pampanga Rep. Mikey Macapagal-Arroyo, chairman of the House Committee on Energy, said there is a large chance that the bill seeking the BNPP's rehabilitation and utilization will be passed in the House.

"I believe that it is safe, it is reliable, and it is cheaper," said Arroyo, a co-author of the bill.

The bill, which has already been approved by the energy committee, is currently pending in the Appropriations Committee which will determine how much is needed to bring the power plant to life, he said.



Arroyo said that at the earliest, the appropriations committee may have the bill passed by the second or third week of February.

But another lawmaker said government officials should not rush into utilizing the BNPP until studies backed by empirical data have proven it sound for operations.

During the same event, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said that while he acknowledged that nuclear energy is an acceptable option as a power source, authorities should first ensure that the operations in the 20-year-old BNPP would not cause harm to the public and to the environment.

"Mahirap pang mag-rush sa conclusion na maliit ang gagalawin...I think ang kelangan talaga isang exhaustive and viable study [It's hard to rush into the conclusion that the BNPP will need few tweakings... I think what is really needed is an exhaustive and viable study]," Casiño said.

Casiño said authorities should also consider whether building a new power plant would be safer and more economically viable than rehabilitating the BNPP.

Experts' take

This was echoed by Dr. Giovanni Tapang, a Physics professor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

"As an option wala naman siyang problema kung nandiyan yung safety, economic viability, at pagpapalinaw sa community [As an option, nuclear energy has no problems if there is safety, economic viability, and communication with the community]," Tapang said.

Tapang however added, that nuclear energy is not the only solution to the country's energy woes, saying electric costs are high not only because of a shortage in supply but because of contracts entered into by power distributors such as the National Power Corporation.

Likewise, Dr. Carlito Aleta, former director and current consultant of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, said he believes nuclear energy use worldwide has proven that it is mostly safe and reliable but that the soundness of the BNPP would still have to be verified.

"I cannot say now [whether the BNPP is safe for operations] for the reason that we know it has been shut down for many years," Aleta said.

Other PNRI officials said electricity generated from the BNPP would power 148,800 households consuming 100 kilowatts per hour a month, for one year.

Nagbalayong village captain Cesar Manalo said villagers near the BNPP are hoping that aside from the cheaper electricity, utilizing the BNPP would provide job opportunities.

Manalo said about 60 percent of his constituents favor a re-opening of the nuclear power plant, but that he is hoping many other villagers will support the plant's rehabilitations once they are better-informed. - GMANews.TV



Rep. Mark Cojuangco briefs media representatives on the status of the power plant

NAPOCOR President Froilan Tampinco, center, answers questions from Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and AGHAM Chair Dr. Giovanni Tapang, right

A Napocor engineer gives detailed briefing on the maintenance of the plant

House Energy committe chair Rep. Mikey Arroyo, Rep. Mark Cojouangco and Napocor President Tampinco at the press conference


Philippine Climate Watch Alliance
23 January 2009
Press Release

Environmental groups warn against revival of Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

An alliance of progressive sectoral and environmental groups dispute the basis for re-commissioning the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) as it imperils the future of our country and is a repeat of the wrongs of the past.

Senate Bill No. 2665, or the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Re-commissioning Act of 2008, is claimed "to revisit and utilize the nuclear power option" to address global warming and the "shortfall in the electric generating capacity of the country in 2012."

Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) spokesperson, Meggie Nolasco expressed that, "We have more than enough sustainable energy resources that can be tapped like hydro, geothermal, wind, solar and natural gas to meet our country's energy requirement and propel us to energy independence. There is not one valid reason for us to resort to nuclear energy."

The group pointed out that the BNPP will not address global warming as its proponents claim.

"That the nuclear power plant will not emit greenhouse gases is a perverse lie. In addition to uranium ore being non-renewable, large amounts of carbon will be emitted due to the fuel that is needed to operate the plant," said Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, renowned geologists and a member of PCWA.

The re-commissioning will also uselessly spend needed funds for real and meaningful solutions to climate change and energy crisis. The construction and generating costs of nuclear power are far greater than most renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies around the world.

"The most probable reason why the Arroyo government, particularly the Department of Energy, is reviving the nuclear option is that it is a multibillion dollar project where fat and grease money will come in from foreign energy corporations and international financial institutions," stated Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment and member of PCWA.

It was President Aquino who declared in 1986 that BNPP has roughly 4,000 defects and was unsafe to operate. Even though the BNPP has never produced a single watt of electricity, the Filipino people still paid a total of Php120 billion for principal and interest since 1986.

"We just need to recall that President Marcos and his cronies are estimated to have gotten $80 million in kickbacks. With the current administration, that is said to be the most corrupt and with many scams already under her name, the BNPP will just be another racket at the expense of the safety of our people and environment," Bautista remarked.

PCWA stand their ground that BNPP is an un-sound proposal for a country with vast renewable energy potential. Its proponents should be trashed along with the BNPP, which is already widely known to be hazardous to the environment, health of the people, and national security.

Reference: Meggie Nolasco, spokesperson, Philippine Climate Watch Alliance, 09163733275.
The Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) is a broad network of non-government organizations, grassroots and people's organizations, and individuals aiming to examine and address the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities within the country.

For inquiries, please contact the Secretariat:
Telefax No. +632-9209099,+632-9248756


Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and AGHAM Chair. Dr. Giovanni Tapang interviewed by media in Morong, Bataan



Saga of Bataan nuclear plant debt ends next year
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Last updated 04:16am (Mla time) 11/24/2006

Published on Page A1 of the November 24, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

BY THE END of next year, the Philippines shall have unshackled the ball-and-chain debt that has hobbled a generation of Filipinos who have had to pay out P120 billion for principal and interest since 1986 for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) that has never produced a single spark of electricity.

The Department of Budget and Management and the Bureau of the Treasury confirmed that the $50-million allocation (over P2.5 billion) in the 2007 budget represented the last of the BNPP debt to be paid by the government. (A small part of the BNPP borrowings was converted in 1992 to longer-term low-interest Brady Bonds due in 2017 and 2018).

Westinghouse Electric Co., which made the equipment for the world’s first nuclear power plant in 1957, built the BNPP from 1974 to 1984 for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at a cost of $2.3 billion or nearly four times the initial bid of $600 million.

The plant was constructed on a 357-hectare government reservation at Napot Point in Morong town, Bataan province, 9 kilometers from Mt. Natib, a slumbering volcano sandwiched between the earthquake-prone Philippine Fault and the West Luzon Fault.

When President Corazon Aquino was swept into power in 1986, she ordered the nuclear plant mothballed, declaring it was shot through with roughly 4,000 defects and was unsafe to operate.

Albay Representative Joey Salceda said: “Why is it that the power sector breeds much of our grand follies in history? You start with Marcos buying one for the price of two. If the 600-megawatt plant was not mothballed, we would have avoided $11 billion in stranded power costs.”

Salceda, an economic adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was referring to the decision of former President Fidel V. Ramos to enter into multibillion-dollar contracts with independent power producers to avert the massive power shortages he inherited from Aquino, who failed to put in place alternative projects for the scrapped BNPP, in the 1990s.

Perverse alternative

Salceda estimated that had the government placed the P37 billion for the BNPP in safer investments in 1986, it would have yielded a total of P420 billion in earnings for the country based on Treasury bill yields compounded over the last 20 years.

“But in a perverse alternative, the P420 billion would have gone to another folly,” Salceda said.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said the BNPP debacle “underscores the importance of due diligence in considering projects that would entail public funding as well as spreading the risks to include the private sector.”

“We shouldn’t trade short-term gains for long-term pain. Big ticket projects should pay for themselves and if they flounder, government should not always bail them out. The risk should be borne by private investors as well. This way we won’t be exposed to contingent debt that would end up as sovereign obligations. We should adopt the user pays principle so we will not backload payments for future generations,” Andaya said.

What might have been

Despite the coming end of the BNPP debt saga, past and present officials and activists continued to ponder the what-might-have-beens had the government opted to repudiate the BNPP debt in 1986 or, alternatively, put the nuclear plant to use one way or another.

Freedom from Debt Coalition president Ana Maria R. Nemenzo said that Aquino was “equally guilty” as Marcos for foisting the “notoriously scandalous debt” on the Filipino people -- “the strongman for building it and his successor for insisting on paying for it.”



Nemenzo said that Aquino should have done a generation of Filipinos a favor by repudiating the BNPP debt when she and the Philippines were the toast of the world after the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986.

No guts

“Cory (Aquino) just did not have the guts; she could have opted not to pay this illegitimate debt. Instead, she adopted a policy to honor all debts just to prevent the Philippines from being an international pariah. But look at what it cost us,” said Nemenzo.

To make matters worse, Nemenzo said Aquino and succeeding presidents made it a priority to pay the BNPP and other foreign debt through automatic appropriations in the budget ahead of spending for more pressing needs such as education and social services.

Nemenzo said Aquino probably did not want to earn the ire of Washington by reneging on the Philippines’ commitment to the US Export Import Bank, whose decision to finance the project despite its bloated cost was key to BNPP’s construction.

“The act alone would have fractured relations with the US and showed to the world the US responsibility in coddling Marcos,” Nemenzo said.

Another issue in the BNPP saga was whether the plant should have been used.

Sold as scrap?

Raul T. Concepcion, a businessman and consumer advocate, said that when the government decided to honor the BNPP contract, it should have decided to use the nuclear plant or at least sold it as scrap in 1986 when it still had a higher value.

Concepcion was part of a private mission that brought Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) to the Philippines in 1992 with an offer to turn the BNPP from a “dead asset” into a fully operational power plant.

“It is money wasted down the drain. This is why we see a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor. It is our people that have to pay for fiascoes like these in the form of higher taxes, inadequate social services, infrastructure, education and housing,” said Concepcion who has called for a review of the country’s nuclear energy policy in view of sky-high oil prices.

Former senator Rene Saguisag, who headed the presidential commission on the BNPP, had rejected operating the BNPP twice -- in 1986 and 1992 -- because of the public’s fear of a possible nuclear meltdown that was triggered by the Three Mile Island accident in the United States.

Go after Disini

“It was an emotional decision but we stand by it. The public’s opposition against the nuclear plant was strong, the psychological resistance was insuperable. If people who can send men to space can blow up nuclear plants, what more the people who cannot go beyond the jeepney?” said Saguisag.

Instead of regretting what might have been, Saguisag suggested that the government run after the people responsible for the BNPP debt, including businessman Herminio Disini, who used his connections with Marcos to award the nuclear power plant contract to Westinghouse instead of General Electric.

Saguisag noted that Disini, a reputed Marcos bagman who was believed to have received $17 million in bribes in the deal, had yet to face the music more than three decades after “fixing” the contract and with just one year left before the BNPP is fully paid for.

Saga of Bataan nuclear plant debt ends next year - ...

Saga of Bataan nuclear plant debt ends next year. By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. Inquirer First Posted 04:09am (Mla time) 11/24/2006. Filed Under: Nuclear power, ...


Rep. Mark Conuangco, Tarlac Rep. Herminia Roman, Bataan 1st District Cynthia Estanislao, Mayor of Morong, Bataan


Major Nuclear Power Plant Accidents

December 12, 1952
A partial meltdown of a reactor's uranium core at the Chalk River plant near Ottawa, Canada, resulted after the accidental removal of four control rods. Although millions of gallons of radioactive water poured into the reactor, there were no injuries.

October 1957
Fire destroyed the core of a plutonium-producing reactor at Britain's Windscale nuclear complex - since renamed Sellafield - sending clouds of radioactivity into the atmosphere. An official report said the leaked radiation could have caused dozens of cancer deaths in the vicinity of Liverpool.

Winter 1957-'58
A serious accident occurred during the winter of 1957-58 near the town of Kyshtym in the Urals. A Russian scientist who first reported the disaster estimated that hundreds died from radiation sickness.

December 7, 1975
At the Lubmin nuclear power complex on the Baltic coast in the former East Germany, a short-circuit caused by an electrician's mistake started a fire. Some news reports said there was almost a meltdown of the reactor core.

nr. Greifswald, East Germany: radioactive core of reactor in the Lubmin nuclear power plant nearly melted down due to the failure of safety systems during a fire.

March 28, 1979: Three-Mile Island
Near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, America's worst nuclear accident occurred. A partial meltdown of one of the reactors forced the evacuation of the residents after radioactive gas escaped into the atmosphere.



February 11, 1981
Eight workers are contaminated when more than 100,000 gallons of radioactive coolant fluid leaks into the contaminant building of the Tennessee Valley Authority's Sequoyah 1 plant in Tennessee.

April 25, 1981
Officials said around 45 workers were exposed to radioactivity during repairs to a plant at Tsuruga, Japan.

April 26, 1986
The world's worst nuclear accident occurred after an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. It released radiation over much of Europe. Thirty-one people died iin the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Hundreds of thousands of residents were moved from the area and a similar number are belived to have suffered from the effects of radiation exposure.

September 30, 1999
Another accident at the uranium processing plant at Tokaimura, Japan, plant exposed fifty-five workers to radiation. More than 300,000 people living near the plant were ordered to stay indoors. Workers had been mixing uranium with nitric acid to make nuclear fuel, but had used too much uranium and set off the accidental uncontrolled reaction.

Aug. 9, Mihama, Japan: nonradioactive steam leaked from a nuclear power plant, killing four workers and severely burning seven others.

July 17, Kashiwazaki, Japan: radiation leaks, burst pipes, and fires at a major nuclear power plant followed a 6.8 magnitude earthquake near Niigata. Japanese officials, frustrated at the plant operators' delay in reporting the damage, closed the plant a week later until its safety could be confirmed. Further investigation revealed that the plant had unknowingly been built directly on top of an active seismic fault.

Morong Parish Priest Napocor President Froilan Tampinco PNRI

Dr. Arcilla of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences

Dr. Carlito Aleta, former director and current consultant of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

Download draft bill to reopen BNPP


Backgrounder on Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident


On April 26, 1986, an accident occurred at Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the former USSR. The accident, caused by a sudden surge of power, destroyed the reactor and released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

To stop the fire and prevent a criticality accident as well as any further substantial release of fission products, boron and sand were poured on the reactor from the air. In addition, the damaged unit was entombed in a temporary concrete "sarcophagus," to limit further release of radioactive material. Control measures to reduce radioactive contamination at and near the plant site included cutting down and burying a pine forest of approximately 1 square mile. The three other units of the four-unit Chernobyl nuclear power station were subsequently restarted. The Soviet nuclear power authorities presented an initial report on the accident at an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna, Austria, in August 1986.

After the accident, access to the area in a 30-kilometer (18-mile) radius around the plant was closed, except for persons requiring official access to the plant and to the immediate area for evaluating and dealing with the consequences of the accident and operation of the undamaged units. The population evacuated from the most heavily contaminated areas numbered approximately 116,000 in 1986 and another 230,000 people in subsequent years (Source: UNSCEAR 2000, IAEA 2005).

Pripyat, the town near Chernobyl where most of the workers at the plant lived before the 1986 accident, was evacuated several days after the accident, because of radiological contamination. It was included in the 30-km Exclusion Zone around the plant and is closed to all but those with authorized access.
Health Effects from the Accident

The Chernobyl accident caused many severe radiation effects almost immediately. Among the approximately 600 workers present on the site at the time of the accident, 2 died within hours of the reactor explosion and 134 received high radiation doses and suffered from acute radiation sickness. Of these, twenty eight workers died in the first four months after the accident. Another 200,000 recovery workers involved in the initial cleanup work of 1986-1987 received doses of between 0.01 and 0.50 Gy. The number of workers involved in cleanup activities at Chernobyl rose to 600,000, although only a small fraction of these workers were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Both groups of cleanup and recovery workers may become ill because of their radiation exposure, so their health is being monitored.

The Chernobyl accident also resulted in widespread contamination in areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine inhabited by millions of residents. Radiation exposure to residents evacuated from areas heavily contaminated by radioactive material from the Chernobyl accident also has been a concern. Average doses to Ukrainian and Belarusian evacuees were 17 mSv and 31 mSv, respectively. Individual exposures ranged from a low of 0.1 to 380 mSv. However, the majority of the five million residents living in contaminated areas received very small radiation doses which are comparable to natural background levels (1 mSv per year).

The health of these residents also has been monitored since 1986, and to date there is no strong evidence for radiation-induced increases of leukemia or solid cancer (other than thyroid cancer). An exception is a large number of children and adolescents who in 1986 received substantial radiation doses in the thyroid after drinking milk contaminated with radioactive iodine. To date, about 4,000 thyroid cancer cases have been detected among these children. Although 99% of these children were successfully treated, nine children and adolescents in the three countries died from thyroid cancer. Fortunately, no evidence of any effect on the number of adverse pregnancy outcomes, delivery complications, stillbirths or overall health of children has been observed among the families living in the most contaminated areas.

Apart from the increase in thyroid cancer after childhood exposure, no increase in overall cancer or non-cancer diseases have been observed that can be attributed to the Chernobyl accident and exposure to radiation. However, it is estimated that approximately 4,000 radiation-related cancer deaths may eventually be attributed to the Chernobyl accident over the lifetime of the 200,000 emergency workers, 116,000 evacuees, and 270,000 residents living in the most contaminated areas. This estimate is far lower than initial speculations that radiation exposure would claim tens of thousands of lives, but it is not greatly different from estimates made in 1986 by Soviet scientists.
US Reactors and NRC's Response

U.S. reactors have different plant designs, broader shutdown margins, robust containment structures, and operational controls to protect them against the combination of lapses that led to the accident at Chernobyl. Although the NRC has always acknowledged the possibility of major accidents, its regulatory requirements provide adequate protection, subject to continuing vigilance, including review of new information that may suggest weaknesses.

Assessments in the light of Chernobyl have indicated that the causes of the accident have been adequately dealt within the design of U.S. commercial reactors. However, the Chernobyl accident emphasized the importance of safe design in both concept and implementation, of operational controls, of competence and motivation of plant management and operating staff to operate in strict compliance with controls, and of backup features of defense-in-depth against potential accidents.

Although a large nuclear power plant accident somewhere in the United States is unlikely because of design and operational features, the assessment of Chernobyl raised questions as to whether changes were needed to NRC regulations or guidance regarding reactivity accidents, accidents at low or zero power, operator training, and emergency planning.

The NRC's response to the Chernobyl accident was divided into three major phases: (1) determining the facts of the accident, (2) assessing the implications of the accident for safety regulation of commercial nuclear power plants in the United States, and (3) conducting additional specific studies suggested by the assessment.


The first phase, fact finding, was a coordinated effort between several U.S. government agencies and some private groups, with the NRC acting as the coordinating agency. The work was completed in January 1987 and reported in NUREG-1250, "Report on the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station."

The second phase, the implications study, was reported in NUREG-1251, "Implications of the Accident at Chernobyl for Safety Regulation of Commercial Nuclear Power Plants in the United States," issued in April 1989. The report concluded that no immediate changes were needed in the NRC's regulations regarding the design or operation of U.S. commercial nuclear reactors as a result of lessons learned from Chernobyl.

For the third phase, Chernobyl follow-up studies for U.S. reactors were reported in June 1992 in NUREG-1422, "Summary of Chernobyl Follow-up Research Activities." That report closed out the Chernobyl follow-up research program, though certain issues will continue to receive attention in the normal course of NRC work. For example, the NRC will follow long-term lessons with regard to contamination control -- decontamination, ingestion pathway, relocation of people. The NRC recognizes that the Chernobyl experience should remain a valuable part of the information to be taken into account when dealing with reactor safety issues in the future.


The Chernobyl reactors are of the RBMK type. These are high-power, pressure-tube reactors, moderated with graphite and cooled with water. At the time of the Chernobyl accident there were 17 RBMKs in operation in the Soviet Union and two in Lithuania. Since the accident, five RBMKs have been shut down. All four units at Chernobyl and one of the Lithuanian RBMKs were shut down.

At Chernobyl:
– Unit 4 reactor was destroyed in the 1986 accident;
– Unit 2 was shut down five years later; after a serious turbine building fire;
– Unit 1 was closed in November 1996, and
– Unit 3 was closed December 15, 1999, as promised by Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma.

In Lithuania, Ignalina Unit 1 was shut down in December 2004 as a condition of admission to the European Union. Of the remaining 12 operating RBMKs, 11 are in Russia and one is in Lithuania (proposed to be decommissioned by 2009).

The countries of the G-7, the European Commission and Ukraine helped in closing these reactors. This effort included support for such things as Chernobyl Unit 3 plant-specific short-term safety upgrades, decommissioning of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, development of an action plan for addressing the social impacts on workers and their families resulting from Chernobyl closure, and identification of power supply investments needed to meet Ukraine's future electrical power needs.

On April 26, 1996, the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, Ukrainian President Kuchma formally established the Chernobyl Center for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radio-ecology in the town of Slavutych. The Center would provide the Ukraine with an indigenous, institutional capability to provide technical support to its nuclear power industry, the academic community, and nuclear regulators.


Construction of the sarcophagus covering the destroyed Chernobyl Unit 4 was started in May 1986 and completed by the Soviet authorities in an extremely challenging environment six months later in November. It was quickly built as a temporary fix to channel remaining radiation from the reactor through air filters before being released to the environment. After several years, uncertainties about the actual condition of the sarcophagus, primarily due to the high radiation environment, began to emerge.

In 1997, the countries of the G-7, the European Commission and Ukraine agreed that a multilateral funding mechanism be established to help Ukraine transform the existing sarcophagus into a stable and environmentally safe system through the Chernobyl Shelter Implementation Plan. The Chernobyl Shelter Fund was established to finance the Plan. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was entrusted with managing the Fund. The Plan is intended to protect the personnel, population and environment from the threat of the very large inventory of radioactive material contained within the existing sarcophagus for many decades. First, the existing sarcophagus will be stabilized and then eventually it will be replaced with a new safe shelter (confinement). New shelter construction is expected to start in late 2006 with a design to include an arch-shaped steel structure, which will slide across the existing sarcophagus via rails. This new structure is designed to remain functional for 100 years.

Information Resources

UNSCEAR 1988 Report, Sources, Effects and Risks of Ionizing Radiation
Annex D, Exposures from the Chernobyl accident.
UNSCEAR 1988 Report, Sources, Effects and Risks of Ionizing Radiation
Appendix to Annex G, Early effects in man of high radiation doses.
UNSCEAR 2000 Report, Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation
Annex J, Exposures and effects of the Chernobyl accident.
Environmental Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident and Their Remediation: Twenty years of Experience, Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group "Environment," August 2005
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April 2006