Philippines’ Meralco to Explore Nuclear Power with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation

Meralco has signed a deal with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp, tapping into nuclear power.
Meralco has signed a deal with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp, tapping into nuclear power. (Judgefloro/WikimediaCommons)

With the soaring electricity bills for electricity power shortages, the Philippines is looking for a way to address the issues by exploring nuclear power.

Is Nuclear Power the Answer?

On Thursday, Philippine power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) inked a cooperative agreement with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC). The US company will head pre-feasibility research to “familiarize Meralco” with its patented Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) energy system in four months and evaluate its effectiveness for local use.

“USNC is changing the nuclear safety and energy security conversation in the Philippines with these micro-modular reactors. This agreement moves us forward with a partner who understands these important issues alongside the essential nature of the cost and reliability of the electricity supply,” said Manuel Pangilinan, Meralco chair and chief executive.

Meralco noted that USNC’s MMR energy system consists of a high-temperature, helium-cooled micro-reactor. It works as a “nuclear battery,” providing a maximum of 45 megawatts of heat. The heat is released into a centralised storage unit and then extracted to fulfil a vast array of power requirements.

According to USNC, its system comprises transportable modules, which include the nuclear reactor. The reactor connects at the site, enabling deployment where electricity is needed. Based on the outcomes of the initial evaluation, Meralco can conduct more thorough and feasible research. It would focus on the approval and deployment of MMR energy systems.

MMR has licenses from Canada and the US with slated demonstration units for initial nuclear power in 2026. Based on the US Atomic Energy Act Section 123, the 123 agreement should be entered into by the US and other countries. This would accommodate a legal basis for authorising American firms to export nuclear materials.

Gradual Transition to Clean Energy

In August, the Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez disclosed that Meralco was already discussing with USNC. They talked about the development of technology utilising nuclear energy to curb swelling electricity prices and suffice increasing power demand in the Philippines. The electric company specified the nuclear initiative was one of its long-term sustainability strategies for transitioning to clean energy.

Currently, the country still relies on coal which accounts for around 60% of its power generation. The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was never commissioned since its completion in the 1980s.

The government is taking initiatives to tap into both renewable energy and nuclear power for its energy mix. According to the Philippine Energy Plan, the Marcos administration is considering including 1,200 megawatts of nuclear energy in the power mix by 2032. It will increase to 2,400 megawatts by 2040, and 4,800 megawatts by 2050.