Meralco weighs nuclear power prospect
MANILA -Power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) will pursue a partnership with a US-based nuclear power developer to assess the feasibility of developing the technology in the Philippines in a bid to diversify the country’s energy sources while ensuring reliable supply.
Tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan, who chairs Meralco, on Monday told reporters that the feasibility study with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. would commence in mid-2024.
“The prefeasibility study will take three months, while the [full] feasibility study will take another six months… Hopefully by the middle of next year, we’ll have the feasibility [study results] and we will share it with everybody, including the government,” Pangilinan said at Meralco Power Academy’s Giga Summit event in Makati.
Meralco first announced its partnership with Ultra Safe in August, adding that a team from its power generation arm Meralco PowerGen Corp. would be sent to the US to visit and study the University of Illinois’ nuclear reactor site.
Ultra Safe, established in 2011, specializes in micro modular reactors (MMRs) and other nuclear power technologies for space exploration.
Pangilinan remained mum on the specific scope of the study, but hinted that it would cover “everything,” including safety, cost, site proposals as well as the technical and financial aspects.
Meralco is set to meet with representatives from Ultra Safe to further discuss the study, particularly the cost of developing 5- to 15-megawatt MMRs.
Pangilinan noted that these reactors could help ensure adequate power for the country’s data centers.
MMRs are nuclear reactors that are ideally built in smaller areas not suitable for larger nuclear power plants, according to global organization International Atomic Energy Agency.
President Marcos has been pushing for nuclear power development since the beginning of his term in 2022, saying that it was a “viable option for low- or zero-carbon energy sources.”
This has since encouraged the private sector to start pursuing partnerships with foreign nuclear power developers, including Ultra Safe and Oregon-based NuScale Power LLC, to assess the viability of the resource.
While nuclear power could boost the Philippines’ electricity supply, Pangilinan also recognized that safety concerns remained, citing the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters.
This were among the considerations to be assessed in the feasibility study with Ultra Safe, he said. INQ