Meralco taps US-based USNC on potential micro-modular reactors

MERALCO and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. cooperative agreement. From left: Pilipinas Global Network President and CEO Ernesto D. Sta. Maria, Jr.; Meralco PowerGen-Global Business Power EVP and COO Dominador M. Camu, Jr.; USNC EVP for Global Strategy Roland Backhaus; Meralco EVP and COO Ronnie L. Aperocho; Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.; USNC CEO and Founder Dr. Francesco Venneri; USNC Senior Advisor Amb. John A. Bohn; Vesticom, Inc. CEO Ramon Jose A. Cruz.

POWER DISTRIBUTOR Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has signed a deal with US-based company Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC) to study the potential deployment of one or more micro-modular reactors (MMR) systems in the Philippines.

“USNC is changing the nuclear safety and energy security conversations in the Philippines with these Micro-Modular Reactors,” Meralco Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Manuel V. Pangilinan said in a media release on Thursday.

The cooperative agreement was signed on Nov. 15 on the sidelines of the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in the US.

“This agreement moves us forward with a partner who understands these important issues alongside the essential nature of the cost and reliability of the electricity supply,” Mr. Pangilinan added.

Meralco Executive Vice-President (EVP) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ronnie L. Aperocho, who represented Mr. Pangilinan, and USNC Founder and Chief Executive Francesco Venneri signed the agreement to study the MMR systems, which are described as fourth-generation and gas-cooled.

Under the deal, USNC will conduct a pre-feasibility study that will run for four months to familiarize Meralco with MMR systems and how to effectively be utilized in the country.

The distribution utility will then have the option to conduct a more detailed feasibility study with a focus on the adoption and deployment of MMR energy systems.

According to Meralco, the study will help them “in critical decisions and potential future activities on project-specific studies and project development plans at identified sites.”

The study will assess financial, technical, safety, siting requirements, and commercial viability, among other topics.

As described by Meralco, USNC’s MMR energy system features the high temperature helium-cooled micro reactor or “nuclear battery” that can safely and reliably provide up to 45 megawatts thermal of high-quality heat, delivered into a centralized heat storage unit.

One or more MMR nuclear batteries combine their heat in the heat storage unit from where electric power or superheated steam can be extracted through conventional means to meet a wide range of power requirements, from tens to hundreds of megawatts.

Mr. Venneri said USNC’s MMR nuclear batteries “can play a major role” in advancing the energy security and sustainability roadmap for the Philippines.

“The plans that will quickly follow this study place Meralco well on the way toward creating a reliable, low-carbon, equitable and secure future for Filipinos,” Mr. Venneri said.

USNC has active micro reactor deployment projects in Canada at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, in the US at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and in the UK through the Advanced Modular Reactor program, among other projects in Asia, the US, Canada, and Europe.

Meralco said the nuclear initiative is part of its long-term sustainability strategy that seeks to accelerate its shift to green energy as it assesses and adopts clean technologies such as MMR energy systems.

In September, Meralco announced the launching of its two-year graduate program, which is scheduled to run from 2025 to 2027. The program seeks to develop professionals who will help advance the integration of nuclear power in the country’s energy portfolio.

On Thursday, shares of the company rose by nine centavos or 2.5% to close at P369 apiece.

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera


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