The Central government is charting out a plan to ramp up nuclear power production in a bid to increase renewable energy production and meet climate change goals. The government may include incentives for private players to set up nuclear power plants under the public-private partnership mode.
The policymakers’ focus is to augment the use of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), which that are smaller and cost less.
SMRs are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of a conventional nuclear power reactor.
The government of India’s policy think tank Niti Aayog is expected to start stakeholder consultants and invite private companies to set up SMRs, an Economic Times report added.
In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha last week, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Jitendra Singh said in addition to the 11 nuclear reactors – with a capacity of 8700 MW – under construction, the government has accorded administrative approval and financial sanction for construction of 10 indigenous 700 MW pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) to be set up in fleet mode.
The government has also accorded in-principle approval for five new sites for setting up nuclear power plants in the future, according to a statement from the department of atomic energy.
Currently, India produces 6,780 MW with 22 nuclear reactors, and the production is expected to reach 22,480 MW by 2031 with the addition of those under construction.
The Atomic Energy Act, of 1962 allows private companies to take part in nuclear energy projects as junior equity holders through the supply of components, equipment, and works contracts.
India aims to reduce carbon emissions by hand half or one billion tonnes by 2030 and become net zero by 2030—goals that require swift replacing fossil-fuel-based energy production with that from renewable energy sources.
Union Minister Dr. Singh earlier said India is in the fourth position globally after China, the EU, and the US in installed Renewable Energy capacity, and is taking steps to develop Small Modular Reactors (SMR) for a clean energy transition.
While addressing a workshop on SMR, organized by NITI Aayog and the Department of Atomic Energy last month, Singh said the participation of the private sector, including startups, needs to be explored for the development of this critical technology within India. He added that technology sharing and funds are the two crucial links for ensuring the commercial availability of SMR technology.