Pioneering a sustainable energy future thru nuclear

Z-FACTOR - Joe Zaldarriaga - The Philippine Star
Pioneering a sustainable energy future thru nuclear
Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
STAR / File

Globally, nuclear energy has gained significant traction in recent years as a low-carbon energy source that plays a pivotal role in enhancing energy security and in bridging the transition toward an environmentally clean energy future.

When used strategically, nuclear energy can even efficiently expand and work together with renewable sources such as wind and solar, facilitating a smooth shift to cleaner energy. The local power industry is increasingly acknowledging the technology’s capacity to meet our current energy demands, and a clear and united emphasis on nuclear’s role in shaping the future is becoming evident.

Just last week, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla announced the initiation of the government’s efforts to draft a comprehensive national policy and strategy document concerning nuclear energy. The initiative aims to enhance transparency and accountability regarding nuclear technology-related activities. This is also in line with the government’s efforts on ensuring energy security to help achieve the administration’s goal to reach upper-middle income status.

This is a sterling move by the Department of Energy, as there is a compelling need for the industry to take the lead in advocating transparency as a fundamental step toward fostering a collective, well-informed comprehension of nuclear technology’s potential. This importance is magnified when considering the enduring concerns and uncertainties linked to it.

What is also commendable is that even before the government’s recent policy-related announcement, the private sector, through Meralco, the nation’s largest distribution utility, had already pioneered the push toward nuclear as it made substantial efforts in research and transparency.

Just last month, Meralco disclosed a strategic partnership with US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp to conduct a study on the potential development of nuclear technology in the country, specifically focusing on micromodular reactors.

The announcement was made by Meralco chairman and chief executive officer Manuel V. Pangilinan, or MVP, during the first day of the Meralco Power Academy’s Giga Summit, an event which further facilitated discussions on nuclear technology.

This early on, Meralco is already working towards a better understanding of the potential role of nuclear in carving the path towards a sustainable energy future. The electricity distributor is walking the talk by investing heavily on research and education. Aside from a feasibility study, Meralco also launched the Filipino Scholars and Interns on Nuclear Engineering (FISSION) program, the only organization that has thus done so, so far.

This scholarship program plays a pivotal role in Meralco’s dedication to cultivating the potential of future Filipino nuclear engineers, equipping them for a holistic and comprehensive approach in preparation for the technology’s integration in the Philippines. Meralco has collaborated with prestigious global universities for this program, including the University of California in Berkeley, the University of Illinois, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and Université Paris–Saclay.

Moreover, the FISSION program encompasses a year-long immersion and internship opportunity at Meralco’s partner small modular reactor facilities abroad, such as the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. This hands-on experience allows the scholars to experience practical application of their classroom learnings.

By investing heavily and committing substantial resources to research and development, Meralco stands at the forefront of nuclear technology exploration. Its dedicated efforts are geared towards diversifying the country’s energy sources and cultivating a pool of highly skilled technical professionals capable of operating and advancing new technologies when they become available.

These vital initiatives – addressing key elements like closing the labor gap, promoting innovation, and adopting global best practices – are pivotal in shaping a future powered by nuclear technology. Meralco’s tangible actions are leading us towards a future where sustainability is not just a theoretical concept but a fundamental priority.

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