U.S. establishes Manila as headquarters for Southeast Asia civil nuclear expansion


(Photo: iStock)

To improve power infrastructure, the Philippines is incorporating nuclear energy into its energy transition plans and set to become a base for the U.S. Civil Nuclear Work Group in Southeast Asia. Meralco, the largest power distributor in the region, is optimistic about the prospects of nuclear energy and currently conducting feasibility studies, aiming to complete its first micro nuclear power plant within four years.

During the sixth Indo-Pacific Business Forum held at the end of May, the Philippines and the United States signed cooperation agreements. Both parties agreed, with the assistance of the U.S. government, to train nuclear energy personnel and operate nuclear power plants in the Philippines. The Department of Energy of the Philippines and the Philippine-American Educational Foundation (PAEF) will jointly provide scholarships and plan exchange programs.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink, stated that this initiative would help the Philippines develop the necessary technical workforce to build clean energy infrastructure, including the capability to operate advanced nuclear power plants.

Philippines to boost nuclear energy

The Philippines currently has no commercial nuclear power and relies heavily on fossil fuels for electricity, with coal-fired power accounting for 60%. In response to the global trend of reducing carbon emissions, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has pledged to include nuclear energy in the country's energy mix.

He plans to increase nuclear power supply to 1,200 MW by the end of 2032 and does not rule out the possibility of reactivating the nuclear power plant built during the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to boost the proportion of clean energy.

(Photo: East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau of U.S.)

During the APEC Summit in November last year, the Philippines and the United States signed the "US-Philippines 123 Agreement," based on Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act. This agreement allows the U.S. to engage in nuclear cooperation with allied nations that commit not to use nuclear materials for weapons production. The agreement is seen as formally opening the door for US investment in the Philippine nuclear industry.

The U.S. will also establish a nuclear industry working group in the Philippines, serving as a steppingstone for other Southeast Asian countries. Kritenbrink noted that this organization will connect Philippine and American companies and deepen commercial ties between the US and Southeast Asian partners.

MERALCO eyes micro nuclear solution

While the Philippine and U.S. governments have just formalized their nuclear cooperation, major energy companies have already begun their preparations. Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), the largest power distributor in the Philippines, announced at its recent annual shareholders' meeting that the feasibility study for its micro modular nuclear reactors is nearing completion.

MERALCO has partnered with Ultra Safe Nuclear, a US-based company, to conduct the feasibility study. Although the results are not yet available, MERALCO plans to complete a micro modular nuclear reactor within four years, with an installation capacity of about 5 to 15 MW, aimed at providing electricity to remote areas in the future.

Source: PNAPower Philippines

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