Nuclear energy on tycoons’ radar

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star
Nuclear energy on tycoons� radar
This April 2014 file photo shows the DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute in Quezon City. According to its website, the agency is mandated to "undertake research and development activities in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, to institute regulations on the said uses and to carry out the enforcement of said regulations to protect the health and safety of radiation workers and the general public."
Creative Commons / Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

TORONTO — Companies led by business titans Manuel V. Pangilinan, Sabin M. Aboitiz and Enrique K. Razon continue their quest for nuclear power in a bid to support the country’s energy security in the coming years.

“In the future, we need to really check on nuclear. It has zero carbon emission. The only concern there is it has to be safe and affordable. So that is what we are studying. How do we do that,” Aboitiz Power Corp. head of energy transition projects Felino Bernardo told The STAR.

 “Among the things we are looking at is the technology we will choose, the supply chain and the training should have support from the country of origin because it’s a long term partnership. The choices really are France, US, Japan, Canada and Korea. They are the ones with established technology.”

For AboitizPower, Bernardo said the conversion of existing coal-fired power plants to nuclear facilities is among the options being considered.

“We are looking at that opportunity since the size of small modular reactors (SMR) are a match with our coal plants. So it can be used as a replacement,” he said.

SMRs represent a small scale and flexible source of nuclear power for both on and off-grid.

SMRs have capacities of up to 300 megawatts (MW), while smaller micro-modular reactors or MMRs range from five MW up to 30 MW.

Pangilinan-led Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), for one, is looking at the potential deployment of MMRs. Meralco in November last year signed a cooperative agreement with US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. to study the potential deployment of at least one MMR energy system in the Philippines.

Meralco first vice president and head of networks Froilan Savet told The STAR that results of the pre-feasibility study are expected to come out by the end of the month.

The company earlier identified three potential sites for its planned proof-of-concept modular nuclear plant in the country. Meralco’s nuclear initiative is part of its long-term sustainability strategy through which the company will play out its just, orderly and affordable energy transition to clean energy.

Aside from Meralco and AboitizPower, Razon’s Prime Infrastructure is also exploring possible opportunities in the nuclear space.

“We’re trying to see what’s available, what’s feasible. We’re really just exploring and seeing what’s available out there,” Prime Metro BMD Corp. CEO Sebastian Arsenio Lacson told The STAR.

“In the group, there’s really keen interest in the technology,” he said.

Prime Infra is Razon’s infrastructure arm that focuses on building assets that support the most urgent sustainability priorities – energy, access to clean water and waste management.  

For the country’s nuclear industry development, Lacson said the private sector is supportive of the steps which the government is currently undertaking.

“The government is also very open to suggestions and ideas from everyone so I’m pretty bullish about how these things are going to go forward,” Lacson said.

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