Moving ahead with small modular reactors

Source: The post is based on the article “Moving ahead with small modular reactors” published in Business standard on 18th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3- infrastructure (Energy)

News: In this article author discusses India’s strategic shift towards smaller nuclear plants, specifically Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), and highlights the role of the private sector and policy changes in driving this transition.

About India’s nuclear energy mix

Nuclear power represents 1.7% of India’s total installed power capacity as of March 2022.

By 2032, nuclear power is predicted to constitute 2.2% of capacity and 4.4% of gross generation.

India aims to raise nuclear power to 10% of its energy mix by 2035, requiring a significant increase in nuclear capacity.

What is Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) Technology?

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are advanced nuclear reactors with a maximum capacity of 300 MW per unit. They are smaller, simpler, and safer than traditional reactors. SMRs can be factory-made and transported to a site for installation.

SMRs are economical and time-efficient, and unlike traditional reactors that require refueling every 1-2 years, SMRs only need refueling every 3-7 years.

What are the global advances in SMR technology?

Worldwide, over 70 SMR designs are under development in 17 countries.

Notable examples include the U.S.’s NuScale Power company, whose 600 MW SMR plant design has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In Russia, a 77 MW SMR, Akademik Lomonosov, was operational as early as 2019.

China has also commissioned a high-temperature gas-cooled modular pebble bed demonstration SMR.

In the U.K., Rolls-Royce is setting up a manufacturing facility for SMRs.

What is India’s strategy for nuclear energy transition?

Switching to small reactors: India’s strategy for nuclear energy transition involves moving from larger to smaller nuclear power plants. The country is focusing on the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), which are simpler, safer, and more cost-effective.

Engaging the private sector: The Indian government is advocating for private sector involvement in this initiative. It’s encouraging public-private partnerships for setting up SMRs across the country, inviting both domestic and foreign private companies to participate.

Setting future goals: As of March 2022, nuclear power represents 1.7% of India’s total installed power capacity. The goal is to raise nuclear power to 10% of India’s energy mix by 2035. This would require increasing nuclear capacity to approximately 90GW, a target that may be achieved through the development of SMRs.

What are the major suggestions given by Niti Aayog for SMR?

The NITI Aayog has published a report titled “The Role of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in Energy Transition.” In this report, it suggests:

Private sector participation: NITI Aayog, India’s policy think tank, suggests that the private sector should be actively involved in setting up Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). It believes this can be achieved through public-private partnerships (PPPs), which would offer shared responsibilities and benefits.

Regulatory changes: The think tank recommends creating a comprehensive regulatory regime with stringent safety standards and regular monitoring to ensure the safe operation of SMRs.

Modifying foreign investment policies: NITI Aayog proposes changes to India’s foreign investment policies to enable both domestic and foreign private companies to participate in the country’s SMR development. It aims to attract global nuclear power leaders, such as Westinghouse Electric, GE-Hitachi, Electricite de France, and Rosatom, to invest in India’s nuclear sector.

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