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Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Science and Technology: Nuclear Science

 

Source: BS

Context: This article discusses India’s shift towards Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) as a strategic move in the nuclear energy sector.

 

What are SMRs?

They are advanced nuclear reactors with a capacity of up to 300 MW per unit, offering advantages such as simplicity, safety, and cost-effectiveness.

  • SMRs can be factory-made and transported to a site for installation.
  • SMRs are economical and time-efficient, and unlike traditional reactors that require refuelling every 1-2 years, SMRs only need refuelling every 3-7 years.

 

Status of India’s nuclear power:

  • India has over 22 nuclear reactors in 7 power plants across the country which produce 6780 MW of nuclear power
  • India aims to raise nuclear power to 10% of its energy mix by 2035.

 

Global Status of SMRs:

  • Worldwide over 70 SMR designs are under development in 17 countries e.g., S.’s NuScale Power company, whose 600 MW SMR plant design has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Russia’s 77 MW SMR, Akademik Lomonosov, was operational as early as 2019.
  • In the U.K., Rolls-Royce is setting up a manufacturing facility for SMRs.

 

Why does India need more nuclear power?

  • Very limited growth potential for hydropower because of conserving biodiversity, the costs of rehabilitating and compensating landowners and the seismological factors in the Himalayas.
  • India has nearly 210 gigawatts of coal capacity, producing 73% of the electricity of India, which is not environmentally friendly.
  • Wind and solar powers are intermittent or variable.

 

India’s strategy:

India’s strategy for nuclear energy transition involves transitioning from larger nuclear power plants to smaller ones, specifically Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). The government aims to engage the private sector through public-private partnerships to set up SMRs across the country. The long-term goal is to raise nuclear power to 10% of India’s energy mix by 2035.

 

Niti Aayog’s suggestions for SMRs include:

  • Encouraging private sector participation through public-private partnerships.
  • Implementing comprehensive regulatory changes to ensure safety standards and monitoring.
  • Modifying foreign investment policies to attract domestic and foreign companies for SMR development in India.

 

Way ahead for India:

  • The nuclear industry should move towards ‘passive safety’ designs (for nuclear reactors). For example, active cooling pumps.
  • Enforcing nuclear liability, for example, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010.
  • Ending the monopoly of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in reactor operations. Allow other government companies and private sector

 

Conclusion:

If India hopes to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2070, it needs ~100 GW of nuclear power by 2050. India needs a portfolio of technologies (including SMRs) to make nuclear power safe and cost-effective (capital cost) over time.

 

Insta Links:

Nuclear Technology

 

Mains Links:

Give an account of the growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India. What is the advantage of a fast breeder reactor programme in India? (UPSC 2019)

 

 Prelims Links: UPSC 2016

India is an important member of the  ‘International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor’. If this experiment succeeds, what is the immediate advantage for India?

  1. It can use thorium in place of uranium for power generation
  2. It can attain a global role in satellite navigation
  3. It can drastically improve the efficiency of its fission reactors in power generation
  4. It can build fusion reactors for power generation

 

Ans: 4