Geological Hazards of the Bataan Nuclear Plant: Propaganda and Scientific Fact

Kelvin S. Rodolfo  
Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago 
Senior Research Fellow, Manila Observatory 
Corresponding Member, National Academy of Science and Technology 
14 November 2016


The first version of this scientific review was written for general distribution in July 2010. Its facts remain valid, but aspects of two subsequent events must now be incorporated. The first is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, triggered by a tsunami generated by the magnitude Mw 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake on 11 March 2011.

On 23 July 2012 the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission reported1 that the causes of the accident were foreseeable, but that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO ) had not met basic safety requirements: proper risk assessment, measures to contain collateral damage, and appropriate evacuation planning.

Then, on 12 October 2012, TEPCO admitted that it had not taken these necessary measures for fear of inviting lawsuits or protests.2 We must take the lessons of Fukushima to heart. If the Japanese, with their much more developed culture of safety, can fail so badly, what does this bode for the Philippines? Pertinent aspects of the Fukushima disaster as they apply to BNPP will be discussed throughout this report.

The second important development after my July 2010 report was the detailed geological field work on the BNPP by Dr. Mahar Lagmay and his students and colleagues. This work was published by the prestigious Geological Society of London3. It establishes beyond doubt that an active fault, the Lubao Fault, passes from the municipality of that name through Natib Volcano to the BNPP site at the coast. Pertinent parts of that publication will be incorporated here where appropriate.

The activation of the Bataan plant poses the greatest threat to the well-being of the Filipino people and their environment in my three decades of natural-hazard scientific experience. And the natural dangers are being greatly compounded by nuclear proponents of great influence who know little geology. They select “facts” that defend the safety of the plant site, and ignore “inconvenient” scientific truths that are easily available and verifiable. This is not only dismissive of the dangers to the people, it is a great disrespect and disdain for natural-hazard science.

Foremost among these BNPP advocates is former Congressman Marcos Cojuangco, the author of the first House bill in 2008, HB4631“Mandating the Immediate Rehabilitation, Commissioning, and Commercial Operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant”. His Explanatory Note for the bill displays a glaring lack of information about the geological hazards. He knew so little about volcanoes that in his Bill he located Natib volcano “ten kilometers (10 km) from the BNPP”.
Mt. Natib constitutes more than the entire northern half of the Bataan Peninsula (Figure 1). Its base is below sea level. The BNPP site is on the flank of the volcano, at Napot Point. Like Mt. Pinatubo, this volcano is “calderagenic”, meaning that its eruptions are characteristically widely separated in time, but very violent, and leave a large caldera or depression at its summit. Natib has two calderas; one elongated in the north-south direction, 7.5 kilometers long by 5 kilometers wide. It has a second, circular caldera, 2 kilometers in diameter, about the same size as the one produced at the Pinatubo summit during its 1991 eruption. If caldera size is a measure of eruption power, the one that produced the large Natib caldera was much stronger than Pinatubo 1991.


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