By Raïssa Robles
A tourist official said today that the mothballed nuclear power plant will be turned into a tourist attraction, to teach tour groups about nuclear power.
C’mon, don’t be shy.
Turn the power plant into the most unique tourist spot in the world – a theme park complete with a hotel, a restaurant, disco casino and rides galore.
Seven years ago, Alan wrote about doing just this very thing to the Bataan power plant in a humor column for South China Morning Post. In honor of that guy who caused the mothballing of the plant, he suggested that it be called “Disini Land”.”
Here it is:
By Alan Robles
Each day, the Philippines ritually burns about US$155,000 in cash – at least it might as well. The money goes to pay for what must be the world’s most useless monument to corruption – a defective, non-functioning US$2.1 billion nuclear power plant.
Completed in 1985, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was a centrepiece project of the Marcos dictatorship and would have been Southeast Asia’s first such installation. Located 175km from Manila, the six-storey, five-hectare complex was supposed to generate 620 megawatts of electricity. Instead, it generated only megabucks in kickbacks for Marcos and a crony named Herminio Disini.
Finished two years late and at twice the original quoted cost, the pressurised water reactor was riddled with defects. Based on a 1973 design rejected by several countries, it was built on the slopes of two dormant volcanoes and in an earthquake zone vulnerable to tidal waves. After Marcos was chased out in 1986, the Aquino government kept the plant shut down, but it – and succeeding governments – continued paying off the loans. The repayment, which started in 1975 and will end only in 2018, currently runs to about US$110 per minute – five per cent of our total debt. The plant has yet to spit out a single watt of electricity.
Its builder, Westinghouse, has strenuously denied investigators’ findings that it paid up to US$80 million in bribes to Marcos and Disini. When the dictator fell, Disini fled to the welcoming arms of Austria, using his money (reportedly US$35 million) to set himself up in a castle.
No government has so far mustered the fortitude to denounce the project as a tainted deal conducted by a crooked dictator. Instead, the attention has been on what can be done with the colossal white elephant. Ideas have ranged from converting it to a conventional power station, to selling it off. Unfortunately, not only is the plant’s technology obsolete, but converting it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here is my modest proposal. Why not turn the complex into a militaristic sci-fi theme park? Rig it up with safety devices, special effects and old plane wrecks and then use it to stage paintball shooting tournaments. Hordes of gamers would pay to play out their fantasies in the world’s only nuclear plant used as a simulated battlefield.
The plant could also be rented out as an authentic location for movie companies shooting the latest disaster or secret agent epic. The buildings could be used for seminars and exhibitions, there could even be casinos and an exotic resort (“stay overnight in our nuclear hotel”). It would turn the country into a unique tourist destination. And what would the park be called? What else, but “Disini Land”?
Alan knows what he’s talking about, guys. He once covered tourism full time for Singapore-based Travel Trade Gazette. He was a Science Editor for The Manila Chronicle. And he’s a gamer who loves sci-fi.
GAMAYNON 'GM' says
Being one of a Filipino suffering from a quiet killing price hike especially all the primary commodities which have a great an effect to Filipino mostly the marginal society, I strongly recommend the Nuclear power Plant to be operated not to be a Team Park only but to be the realization of its purpose why it was built.
Mr. Macoy had plan for the Filipino people to have a renewed and agile Nation for the good Future of our new Generation, Bataan was modernized that the Fukushima Power plant, but the Fukushima was Operated lasted for a long term use of cheapest use of electricity for the Japanese people, how much more if Bataan power plant can be used for its real purpose.
nelson ongpauco says
itinayo ang nuclear power plant ay para mag mura ang bayad sa koryente ngayon isinarado ito at ibinalik sa mga lopez ang meralco kaya mahal na uli ang bayad sa koryente dapat buksan uli at paandarin para magmura ang bayad kawawa na nga mga tao maliit na ang sahod sa koryente na papaunta .sana baguhin ni pinoy ang desisyon niya kung gusto niyang tulungan ang taong bayan.
william jacinto juan says
This source of electric power would take the place of many fossil burning, smoke-producing and CO2 producing power plants… how I wish that the Bataan Nuclear plant would be refurbished and operated in the near future.. I suggest Malacanang will form a committee of technical experts to finally study this proposal.. Nuclear power is still the cheapest bulk power source in the long run, better that coal-fired, gas-fired, fuel-oil fired, hydro-power and geothermal power… But of course, utmost safety has to be observed and adopted when it is operated. The nuclear plant that failed in Japan last year due to tsunami is an old old model similar to the Chernobyl power plant in Russia that failed in the early 80s.. The Bataan nuclear plant is a very modern design, one of the most advanced designs in the world…
I’ve been working in different power plants inside and outside the country since I have started my professional life after the university days. For quite sometime, the Bataan Nuclear Plant was one of our topics at work as some of my former colleagues used to work there. In my opinion, it is NOT ABSOLUTELY true that the plant is yet to spit out a single watt of power. During its commissioning time, the plant had been synchronized to the Luzon which technically means it did run for a very short period of time and generated few megawatts ( a 600 MW generator needs to generate something like 5% initial load at the instance it gets connected to the grid – this is quite standard for synchronous generators). If the author talks about it in the “commercial context” , then it is undisputed. To some degree, my former colleagues were in favor of running the plant and if the succeeding governments had just allowed it, the debt due to that plant would have been paid by now. Historically, despite the killer quakes the country has sustained for two decades, the immediate plant location seemed to be intact. So the claim about the plant being built over an unsafe location is somehow not justified. Maybe those “experts” were wrong? And if indeed the place is not safe , why turn it to something else – like a theme park ? Then you are going to expose more people to danger as we know, an advance earthquake warning device is yet to be developed.
I’m 100% sold to the idea..why not tap the Garcia’s who’s running the affairs of the province to drum up this wonderful idea..it will generate jobs for a lot of my province-mate and once again Bataan will be put in a spotlight.
They can point how far away the plant is from the fault line and nearest volcano. Perhaps a short film on what would happen to Manila, in case a Fukushima style earthquake was to occur?
We can even rename it The Kleptocrat Marcos Westinghouse Nuclear Disaster Area.
This suggestion is a bit funny, but who knows? I’m from Morong and I’ve long been frustrated that our town’s tourism potential is not fully realized. As long as the proposed theme park and the surrounding natural park and lovely beaches are managed well, this suggestion just might work.