Meralco unit joins other PH firms looking into nuclear power
MANILA, Philippines — Business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan announced earlier this week that distributor Manila Electric Co.’s (Meralco) power generation arm, Meralco PowerGen Corp. (MGen), was in talks with at least two US-based nuclear developers for the company’s possible entry into the nuclear age.
According to Pangilinan, MGen plans to send a team to the United States to visit and study the University of Illinois’ TRIGA Mark II nuclear reactor site.
The TRIGA Mark II nuclear reactor was operational at the University of Illinois campus for 38 years until it was shuttered in 1998 and had its fuel removed in 2004.
Pangilinan did not disclose the details of its partnership with the proponents of the nuclear manufacturing plants but emphasized that the technology was a “long-term” energy solution for the Philippines.
Last year, Meralco announced that it was applying for a grant from the US Trade and Development Agency for a feasibility study in the country on small modular reactors that can provide up to 300 megawatts (MW) of power per unit.
Boost electricity supply
Meralco expressed its interest in joining the nuclear power race after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. promised during the election last year that he would look into the country’s energy security.
MGen is not the only private sector developer that is exploring the potential of nuclear power.
Aboitiz Power Corp. (AboitizPower) also recently told the Inquirer that it was in constant dialogue with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp., a US-based developer, in a bid to diversify its portfolio and boost the Philippines’ electricity supply through alternative renewable sources.
This is apart from AboitizPower’s ongoing talks with NuScale Power LLC, another developer that is also a partner of ports tycoon Enrique Razon Jr.’s Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc.
Ultra Safe, established in 2011, specializes in micro-modular reactors and other nuclear power technologies for space exploration.
In May, Oregon-based NuScale announced that it would invest up to $7.5 billion (P415.5 billion) to provide 462 MW of nuclear power by the early 2030s. Nuclear power currently has no contribution to the Philippine energy mix, which is still largely composed of coal, as the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was never loaded with fuel since its completion in the 1980s.
Developers have also been pointing out that uncertainties remained within the nuclear power sector, specifically potential project sites and waste storage.
While Marcos skipped talks of nuclear energy development in his second State of the Nation Address despite pushing for it in the first year of his term, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla earlier explained that Congress was still working on the legal and regulatory framework for this technology.