India calls for role of pvt agencies, startups in SMR tech evolution

Small Modular Reactor (SMR) is a promising technology in industrial de-carbonization especially where there is a requirement of reliable and continuous supply of power in view of India’s commitment towards net-zero emission

Nuclear reactors

New Delhi: Central government agencies and privately-run tech organisations, including startup firms, have stepped up efforts to design and build small modular reactors (SMR) to cater to the electricity requirements of off-grid locations and also to meet the commitment to clean energy transition.

The department of atomic energy in association with NITI Aayog held a workshop on SMR here on Sunday to encourage participation of private sector as well as startup companies in development and design technology for SMR, which is critical to India. The participants also discussed the possibilities on technology sharing and availability of fund to ensure commercial availability of the SMR technology.

Speaking at the workshop, Union minister of state for science & technology Jitendra Singh said, “India is taking steps for development of SMR, with up to 300 MW capacity to fulfill its commitment to clean energy transition,” while emphasising the participation of private sector and startups in development of this critical technology within India.

What are SMRs?

SMRs, as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are advanced nuclear-fission reactors that have a power generation capacity of up to 300MW per unit, which is one third of the capacity of traditional reactors. They are small in size and modular in design so that they could be built and shifted to locations, not suited for larger nuclear power plants. “Prefabricated units of SMRs could be manufactured and then shipped and installed on site, potentially making them more affordable to build than traditional reactors, which are typically custom-designed for specific places, often resulting in construction delays,” said a nuclear scientist.

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Safe and cost effective

Being mobile and agile technology, SMR can be factory-built unlike the conventional nuclear reactors that are built on–site. Thus, SMRs offers significant savings in cost and construction time. SMR is a promising technology in industrial de-carbonization especially where there is a requirement of reliable and continuous supply of power. It is said that SMR is simpler and safer as compared to large nuclear plants.

They are also meant to require less fuel than traditional reactors. Power plants equipped with SMRs are designed to refuel every 3–7 years, compared to 1–2 years for conventional plants. Some SMRs are even designed to operate for up to 30 years without refuelling.

In sync with India’s roadmap for energy transition

The exploration of new clean energy options is in tune with the Centre’s roadmap for clean energy transition through bold climate commitments, which are reflected in updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Singh pointed out that “as we have already taken steps for clean energy transition with penetration of non-fossil based energy resources and achieving net-zero by 2070, nuclear in terms of base load power can play a big role in the de-carbonization strategy.”

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India ranks 4th in renewable energy generation

The minister said, an impressive number of measures have been taken to promote renewable energy in the country and India today stands at number four in the RE installed capacity across the world, after China, Europe and United States.

It must be noted that India, comprising 17% of the world population has seen its primary energy growing at rate of 4% during the last decade, almost double the global growth rate of 1.3%. However, by historical standards, our share in global emissions is less than 5%.

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