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Friday, December 8, 2023

Meralco, US firm to explore micro modular reactors

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC) signed on Thursday a cooperative agreement to study the potential deployment of one or more fourth-generation gas-cooled micro-modular reactor (MMR) energy systems in the Philippines.

The agreement builds on the partnership the two companies announced in August.

“USNC is changing the nuclear safety and energy security conversations in the Philippines with these micro-modular reactors. 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,” Meralco chairman and chief executive Manuel Pangilinan said in a statement.

Pangilinan was represented by Meralco executive vice president and chief operating officer Ronnie Aperocho who signed the agreement together with USNC founder and chief executive Francesco Venneriat at the sidelines of the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. witnessed the signing of the agreement.

“This also signifies the commitment of Meralco to explore and utilize diverse energy sources for the benefit of Filipinos. Nuclear technology should be able to help us meet our country’s growing demand for energy, achieve energy independence, and transition towards a sustainable energy future,” Pangilinan said.

USNC will conduct a four-month pre-feasibility study to familiarize Meralco with MMR systems and how these can be effectively utilized.

Meralco has the option to conduct a more detailed feasibility study with focus on the adoption and deployment of MMR energy systems, depending on the results of the pre-feasibility study.

The study will help Meralco 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, and siting, among other considerations.

The MMR energy system features the high temperature helium-cooled micro reactor, the MMR unit 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 MW.

USNC developed and patented its Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) fuel used in the MMR to provide the safest possible nuclear power system at the most fundamental level.

“Meralco is demonstrating real leadership in advancing the energy security and sustainability roadmap for the Philippines. Our MMR nuclear batteries can play a major role in delivering those benefits. 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,” said Venneri.

USNC is working with partners in the United Sates and around the world to develop secure and reliable carbon-free heat and power solutions. The MMR enables new applications for the benefits of nuclear energy beyond traditional centralized electric power grids.

Meralco said the agreement is part of its long-term sustainability strategy through which the power company will play out its just, orderly, and affordable energy transition to clean energy across three horizons.

Meralco said it would accelerate its shift to green power as it assesses and adopts next-generation clean technologies such as MMR energy systems.

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