Meralco backs DOE’s nuclear power ambitions with modular reactor plans

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has publicly announced its commitment to supporting the Philippine government’s ambitious goal to integrate nuclear power into the country’s energy mix by 2032.

Meralco plans to contribute a substantial 1,200 megawatts of capacity through the use of cutting-edge small modular reactor (SMR) technologies.

Ronnie Aperocho, Meralco’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said, “We’ll support the target, definitely, and hopefully we can help the Department of Energy to achieve that target.”

This move aligns with the Department of Energy (DOE)’s vision to diversify and secure the nation’s power supply.

In the latter part of 2023, Meralco made headlines when it partnered with the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC) based in the United States to explore the feasibility of deploying micro-modular reactors (MMRs) in the Philippines.

The collaboration aims to provide cost-effective, reliable, and clean energy, with a focus on reaching underserved and remote areas.

This initiative comes on the heels of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement, known as the 123 Agreement, signed between the Philippines and the United States.

The agreement paves the way for the transfer of U.S.-origin nuclear technologies to the Philippines, marking a significant development in the bilateral relationship between the two countries concerning energy cooperation.

The feasibility study conducted by USNC is currently under review, and a delegation is expected to present the findings to Meralco’s senior executives in the coming weeks.

Adding to the momentum, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo is set to lead a Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to Manila on March 11 to 12, which will include discussions on nuclear energy among other topics.

The US Embassy in Manila is in the process of finalizing the delegation members, but it has been confirmed by Philippine Ambassador to the US, Jose Manuel Romualdez, that USNC will be a key participant.

The potential sites for the MMR deployment are already included in the feasibility study, highlighting the strategic planning undertaken by Meralco and USNC.

Meralco’s chairman and CEO, Manuel Pangilinan, has noted the suitability of SMR technology for the Philippine archipelago, particularly for island provinces like Cebu and Bohol.

“You don’t have to build a big plant, modular naman ito (this is modular),” Pangilinan said, as he reflects the company’s vision to tailor energy solutions to the geographic and economic needs of the country.

Meralco’s move to support nuclear energy is part of a broader narrative in the Philippines’ energy sector, seeking to balance the demand for power with sustainable and secure energy sources.

The government’s 2032 nuclear power target is seen as a pivotal strategy in reducing the country’s carbon footprint while ensuring a stable supply of electricity.

As the Philippines positions itself to be a leader in Southeast Asian energy innovation, the global community watches closely, with potential for the country to set a precedent for safe, scalable, and sustainable energy practices through the adoption of SMR technology.