The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and US-based nuclear developer Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC) began on Monday night the pre-feasibility study for the development of micro modular reactors (MMR) in the Philippines.
“We have a kickoff with them tonight, to kickoff the study,” said Meralco Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ronnie Aperocho after the company’s stockholders’ meeting held the other day.
Meralco Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said his group is bullish on nuclear technology citing the benefits it could bring to help ensure adequate power for the country.
“We’re bullish about their technology and part of the areas we talked to them about is Meralco procuring a proof of concept plan that they can build here in the Philippines that is safe,” said Pangilinan.
The pre-feasibility study is just the first step, Pangilinan said. After which, the results will then lead to a full-blown feasibility study.
“We have no experience in terms of building a modular and certainly in terms of running and operating a plant. So we may need to do that. On the other side, we don’t have an atomic regulatory agency that will eventually oversee, supervise the development of nuclear power in this country,” Pangilinan said.
Further, Pangilinan said nuclear experts must be tapped. “We identified one, Dr. Dimayuga. Ronnie had this energy summit two months ago and he was one of the major speakers.”
Pangilinan was referring to Ike Dimayuga, a senior research scientist at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.
Dimayuga said during the summit that studies have shown that the fastest way to an affordable, reliable, low-carbon energy future includes a significant share of nuclear energy because it can generate carbon-free electricity 24/7, and it is an ideal complement to wind power and solar energy in creating a carbon-free energy future.
“It is important to include nuclear energy as part of the green energy mix, particularly in light of SMR [small nuclear reactors] technology and hybrid energy systems.”
The MMR would have a smaller capacity than SMR. These are typically between 5 to 15 megawatts (MW) which, Pangilinan pointed out, are ideal to energize island provinces, island cities, and data centers.
Meralco is also investing in local talents and is supporting aspiring Filipino nuclear engineers to help accelerate the development of the country’s technical and regulatory talent pipeline through education and training in the highly specialized field of nuclear engineering.
“I think we started to talk with the academic institution, especially with those strong engineering programs. Ofcourse UP, Mapua, La Salle, maybe Ateneo. Also, our own engineers here. We should train them up to be nuclear engineers as well,” he said.
Meralco has launched a program called Filipino Scholars and Interns on Nuclear Engineering, or FISSION, to develop professionals who will help advance the integration of nuclear power in the country’s energy portfolio. The two-year graduate program is scheduled to run from 2025 to 2027.
“Meralco will send some of our engineers to a two-year graduate program targeting local talents who are graduates and practicing Mechanical, Electrical, Material Engineering, and related areas in universities in the US, in Canada, Korea, Japan, France,” Pangilinan said.
The Marcos administration is strongly pushing for nuclear power development. Aside from Meralco, Aboitiz Power Corp. had also expressed interest to include nuclear technology in its portfolio.
Aside from USNC, Oregon-based NuScale Power LLC is also engaged in preliminary talks with local power generation firms that would want to assess the viability of nuclear power.