Nuclear Energy in India's Quest for Net-Zero Emissions and Energy Security

SMRs, ranging between 100 MW and 300 MW, offer advantages such as enhanced safety features, simplified design, and lower potential for radioactive material release.

Srajan Girdonia
10 Aug 2023
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As the world grapples with the urgent need to combat climate change and achieve sustainable development, the challenge of decarbonizing the power sector has taken center stage. This article explores the potential of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) as a promising solution for India, addressing the need for reliable and continuous low-carbon electricity to bolster grid stability, enhance energy security, and expedite the transition to a net-zero carbon economy.

Addressing Decarbonization Challenges

The transition to cleaner energy sources faces challenges, including the intermittent nature of renewables. Critical minerals required for clean-energy production technologies are expected to see a significant increase in demand, posing global challenges related to capital investments and geopolitical risks.

Nuclear Power: A Crucial Element of India's Net-Zero Commitment

Renowned nuclear physicist Dr Anil Kakodkar in a conversation with BusinessLine emphasised the importance of nuclear power for India's net-zero emission commitments. While renewable energy integration poses challenges of grid stability and cost, Kakodkar highlights nuclear power's potential to provide low-cost power and aid in grid balancing.

Nuclear Power Landscape in India and its Future Promise

With 23 reactors and plans for additional units, India aims to reach 22,480 MW of nuclear power by 2031. Kakodkar notes the availability of fuel and calls for accelerated nuclear power expansion.

SMRs, ranging between 100 MW and 300 MW, offer advantages such as enhanced safety features, simplified design, and lower potential for radioactive material release. Their deployment on retired coal power plant sites aligns with India's energy strategy.

Advantages of SMRs

SMRs boast enhanced safety features, seismic isolation, and simplified design. They require less spent nuclear fuel storage, making them suitable for brownfield sites. The modular assembly process reduces time and cost overruns, with potential for lower levelized costs of electricity.

SMRs possess transformative capabilities that can reshape India's energy landscape, offering enhanced safety and economic viability. Their deployment on brownfield sites and utilisation of low-enriched uranium align with India's goals for net-zero emissions.

Legal, Regulatory Reforms and Integration into the Public Grid

Adapting the legal framework to accommodate private sector participation in SMR deployment is crucial. An autonomous regulatory body with specialised expertise is essential to oversee the nuclear power generation cycle, while collaborative efforts can standardise regulations and expedite approvals.

As India aims for net-zero emissions by 2070, a diversified power generation portfolio is vital. While coal-based thermal plants and renewables play key roles, SMRs can bridge gaps in the energy mix. Private sector investment in partnership with the government is crucial for expanding nuclear power.

Fostering Public Perception and Trust

Cultivating public trust in nuclear power is essential. Transparent data dissemination, adherence to safety protocols, and international safeguards can address concerns and portray SMRs as a secure component of India's energy strategy.

Small Modular Reactors present a promising avenue for India to achieve its ambitious net-zero emission targets, enhance energy security, and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change. By capitalising on SMRs' advantages and implementing necessary legal and regulatory reforms, India can accelerate its transition to a sustainable and low-carbon energy future.