US firm’s nuclear investment in PHL makes stride

(Photo courtesy of PCO)

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. praised the developments in the planned nuclear energy investment of Washington-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC) in the Philippines during a meeting with the company’s top executives, led by CEO Francesco Venmeri, in the United States on Friday (Manila time).

“We are delighted to share the progress of our ongoing collaboration with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. since our inaugural meeting in 2023. Their investment in Micro Modular Reactors (MMRs) promises a reliable and clean energy solution for the country,” Marcos said in a Facebook post after the meeting.

The President emphasized the initiative’s potential to ensure greater energy security, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and generate substantial economic gains for Filipinos.

Energy Secretary Rafael Lotilla briefed Marcos on the ongoing legislative measures in Congress that would provide the legal framework for USNC’s planned investment and operation in the Philippines. The House of Representatives has already approved the “Philippine National Nuclear Energy Safety Act” (HB 9293) and the “Philippine Nuclear Liability Act” (HB 9876).

Marcos expressed hope that the Senate would pass the necessary bills to complete the legal requirements and commence the project. “You’re done already in the House. Okay. So, the elements that need to be there, the provisions that need to be (included), we can do in the Senate and then there’s one of course, is the bicam down the road. So, that would be the process from the government side,” he said during the meeting.

The meeting with USNC officials is a follow-up to their initial discussions in May 2023, the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on nuclear cooperation in November 2023, and the firm’s participation in the US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines in March 2024.

USNC, a global leader in nuclear technologies and services, has partnered with Meralco for an MMR study. The agreement was presented to Marcos in November 2023 during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. The pre-feasibility study will run for four months to familiarize Meralco with the MMR system and ensure its effective use in the Philippines.

The Philippine and US governments also signed the Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, or the 123 Agreement, in November last year, paving the way for further cooperation in the nuclear energy sector.