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Meralco looks to DoE on possible sites for nuclear deployment

MANILA Electric Co. (Meralco) is considering 14 areas previously identified by the government as deployment sites for nuclear technology, a company official said.

“We are aligning with the Department of Energy (DoE) because they have looked at 14 sites before. It would be better to wait on what the DoE will say,” Meralco Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Ronnie L. Aperocho told reporters on Monday evening.

Meralco will decide after the pre-feasibility study if it is to conduct a full-blown study, Mr. Aperocho said.

On Nov. 15, Meralco signed a deal with US-based company Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC) to study the potential deployment of one or more micro-modular reactor (MMR) systems in the Philippines.

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 use them.

The power 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.

“But it’s like the stars are aligned, right? The 123 agreement of the government and the House Bill 9293 has been approved, it’s already in the Senate,” Mr. Aperocho said in mixed English and Filipino.

The Philippines and the United States signed the Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, or the so-called “123 Agreement,” which will set the legal framework for potential nuclear power projects with US providers.

Meanwhile, House Bill 9293, which seeks to create the Philippine Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority, hurdled second reading approval last week at the House of Representatives.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman and chief executive officer of Meralco, told reporters separately that the company asked USNC if it could buy a modular plant as proof of concept that it could employ.

“So at least we have experienced how to build and operate a small nuclear plant,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

Asked about where nuclear technology can be deployed, Mr. Pangilinan said: “It must be [within] certain geologic conditions, I suppose. So let’s see. Let’s wait for the results.”

“But you could disperse the deployment of modular technology in an archipelago like the Philippines so you don’t have to build conventional power plants that are big to achieve economies of scale,” he added.

According to Meralco, the pre-feasibility 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 (MW) of high-quality thermal 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 MW.

On Tuesday, shares of the company went down by P4.20 or 1.11% to close at P373 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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