The maze of narrow corridors with pipes snaking through the ceilings, hulking machinery and elaborate control panels looked like something out of a classic Science Fiction or horror flick. I couldn’t help imagine being chased by zombies as we walked along the dark hallways and climbed the industrial stairways of the building that has been sitting idle for three decades.
We were inside the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) during the second day of our adventure backpacking trip with Osprey. The province of Bataan is historically known as being one of the last stands of American and Filipino soldiers before they were overwhelmed by the Japanese forces during World War II. It’s also where you can find the Philippines’ only attempt at building a nuclear power plant, which sits on a 389-hectare government reservation at Napot Point in the coastal town of Morong.
According to the state-run power firm National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), if the plant had operated, its 623 MW electrical capacity could have provided at least 10% of the present power requirements for the Luzon grid. The controversial project was completed in 1984 but never fueled due to anti-nuclear movements in the country and numerous issues raised against it, including the fact that it was built near major earthquake fault lines and close to the then dormant Mount Pinatubo.
As part of the government’s efforts to inform the public about the possibility of atomic power, the BNPP opened its doors to educational tours in 2011. Now, students from schools and universities can visit for field trips and learn more about the potential of atomic energy. However, security remains tight and reservations are required prior to plant briefings and tours. They don’t allow walk-in guests or individuals to visit.
The “BNPP Experience” provides visitors with an orientation on nuclear energy as an alternative resource, a brief history of BNPP, and a plant walk through the major components of the nuclear power plant. From the outside, the imposing grey structure looks stark and abandoned. With walls made of thick concrete, the building looks like a perfect fortress for a zombie apocalypse.
Inside, it’s a maze of rooms containing the “state of the art” (for its time) pieces of machinery. Our first stop was the Steam Generator Building with all the hulking equipment and numerous knobs and switches covering the walls. Since the plant was never fueled, most of the building has never been used, but it was interesting to be able to set foot inside and see everything preserved and well-maintained.
The power plant is one really expensive idle asset. The $2.3 billion nuclear power plant has been on preservation mode since 1986, with annual maintenance costs amounting to Php40 to Php50 million a year. Debts were only fully paid in 2007, with interests amounting to around $400 million over the original amount of $1.9 billion, which put the country in huge debt. And apparently, it would cost another $1 billion to rehabilitate and upgrade about 25% of the facility’s equipment. (Source: Rappler)
This is not a place you would want to be exploring alone without guides. The power plant has this very eerie vibe. I can imagine all the lights turning off one at a time as you run through the halls and industrial stairs. I wonder what lies behind all those doors with signs that say to keep them locked at all times and if all those switches and knobs still work. Since modern technology has rendered most of the equipment obsolete, it seems more costly for the government to upgrade everything to get it up and running again. So for now, the plant remains mothballed until the government can decide what to do with it.
More stairs and walkways later, we reached an airlock leading to the the Reactor Building, a structure with one-meter thick concrete that houses part of the dismantled and unused nuclear reactor.
Unique footwear for a unique destination: Keen Uneek Footwear on the stairs of BNPP
The decontamination chamber has 2 sealed vacuum doors on either side to prevent the contamination of the whole plant. This leads to a steep stairway up to a deck overlooking the nuclear reactor.
Previously on Lost: “Don’t open the hatch!”
According to plant officials, the room is safe for tourists since the reactor no longer contains any uranium fuel and there’s no danger of radiation from radioactive materials. The control rods are still encased in the plastic they originally came in.
The coolest room here is the Control Room, with its wall to wall switches and complicated panels that resembles a villain’s lair in an old James Bond movie. In the middle of the room is a telephone that provides a direct line to the president. Perfect for those times when you need to inform them of your evil plans.
“Mr. President, after I destroy Washington D.C… I will destroy another major city every hour on the hour. That is, unless, of course, you pay me… one hundred billion dollars.” — Dr. Evil
“Guards, activate the unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism!”
Austin Powers references aside, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was a very unique destination. It’s not everyday you get to explore the inner bowels of a mothballed power plant. Many thanks to Osprey Philippines and the Primer Group for including this in our tour of Bataan.
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is located in Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan, Philippines.
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- Entrance fee to BNPP is P150 per person.
- Prior coordination is required for all visits. Walk-ins not allowed.
- It’s better if you’re in a big group so the plant officials can accommodate you.
- It’s better if you have your own vehicle to go here, since public transportation may be difficult because of the plant’s remote location.
- Photography is allowed inside for personal use only. Commercial use of photos is not allowed (though this place would be great for industrial-themed photo shoots, don’t you think?)
- It can get very hot and humid inside the plant. Wear comfortable and breathable clothes and sturdy footwear suitable for climbing stairs.
- For tours to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), please contact the following: (Source: NAPOCOR)
- Mr. Jose G. Manalo, Principal Engineer A, BNPP, 02 924 5313 (land line), 02 922 7848 (telefax), 0920 919 6378 (mobile), email: email@example.com
- Ms. Ma. Corazon O. Baluyot, Environmental Management Specialist, BNPP, 02 9245313 (land line), 02 922 7848 (telefax), 0921 371 3865 (mobile), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Mauro L. Marcelo, Jr., Department Manager, Asset Preservation Department, 02 922 7848 (telefax), 0928 501 9857 (mobile) email: email@example.com