A fuel rod is loaded into the core of PRR-1 SATER in this 2022 photo, in preparation for its operation. (Photo: PNRI)
The Philippines generates none of its electricity from nuclear energy. Until recently, it was even without a functioning research and training reactor. The lack of a nuclear facility has led to a dearth of scientific expertise in nuclear science and nuclear engineering in this nation of roughly 117 million people. Twenty-nine-year-old Ronald Daryll E. Gatchalian is on a mission to change that.
Lotilla (seated, at left) and Blinken (seated, at right) sign the 123 Agreement in San Francisco. Looking on (left to right) are Ann Ganzer, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. State Department; Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Philippine president; and Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. State Department. (Photo: @SecBlinken/X)
The United States and the Philippines last week signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement—known in policy wonk jargon as a 123 Agreement.
A cutaway image of a below-grade MMR module. (Image: USNC)
Ultra Safe Nuclear has signed a cooperative agreement with the Manila Electric Company (Meralco)—the Philippines’ largest electric distribution utility—to study the potential deployment of one or more of the company’s high-temperature, gas-cooled microreactors in the Philippines. The agreement, signed November 15, builds on a partnership between the two companies that was announced in August.
Philippine president Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Vice President Harris meet in Manila on November 21. (Photo: Office of the Press Secretary, Republic of the Philippines)
During a recent weeklong trip to Southeast Asia aimed at bolstering U.S. economic and security ties in the region, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the launch of nuclear energy partnerships with Thailand and the Philippines.
Currently, neither country enjoys the benefits of nuclear power. Both rely primarily on some mix of petroleum, natural gas, and coal for their energy needs.
The Philippine Research Reactor-1 building at the University of the Philippines. (Photo: PNRI)
The research reactor known as SATER (Subcritical Assembly for Training, Education, and Research), housed in at the Philippine Research Reactor-1 building at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, has become operational. As recently reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the core of SATER was loaded with 44 fuel rods, bringing the Philippines its first operational nuclear reactor in 34 years. Through this event, the country has moved a big step closer to meeting the government’s goal of adding nuclear power to its energy resources. The reactor is expected to become fully operational by 2023.
The session hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, the seat of the Philippines’ House of Representatives.
The Philippines’ House of Representatives has established a special 25-member committee to focus on nuclear energy.
Within the committee’s purview, according to an August 9 release from the House’s Press and Public Affairs Bureau, are “all matters directly and principally relating to the policies and programs to the production, utilization, and conservation of nuclear energy, including the development of nuclear power infrastructure, as well as interaction of other energy sources with nuclear energy as a reliable, cost competitive, and environment-friendly energy source to ensure energy security consistent with the national interest and the state’s policy of freedom from nuclear weapons.”
The Battan nuclear power plant in Morong, Philippines. (Source: Jiru27/Wikimedia)
“If the electorate through their elected leaders demand stable or lower electricity costs, and new coal is off the table, only nuclear power offers hope,” writes nuclear engineer Joseph Somsel in reference to the Philippines presidential election, scheduled for May 9. Somsel, who expressed his views on the Nuclear Engineering International website this month, notes that the leading ticket in the election consists of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the former dictator, and vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte, daughter of the current president. The ticket has been running ads supporting nuclear power while condemning high electricity prices.
U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security Bonnie Jenkins (left) and Philippine energy undersecretary Gerardo D. Erguiza Jr. (center) sign a memorandum of understanding on nuclear cooperation at the State Department. Looking on (right) is Philippine ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez. (Photo: Philippine Embassy, Washington, D.C.)
The United States and the Philippines recently signed a memorandum of understanding on strategic civil nuclear cooperation to help boost the development of the latter’s nuclear energy program.