As the proceeds towards achieving a net-zero target by 2050. Alternatives to conventional energy sources are being searched. As of now about 82% of total energy is derived from fossil fuels. And the demand is likely to increase by 80%-150% by 2050. Hence, it becomes increasingly important to move towards more efficient and renewable energy sources.
Nuclear power plants (NPPs) generates about 10% of world`s electricity and help avoid 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions every year. This said, conventional NPPs have suffered from time and cost overruns from time to time. As an alternative, several countries are developing small modular reactors (SMRs) – nuclear reactors with a maximum capacity of 300MW. SMRs can be installed in decommissioned thermal power plant sites by repurposing existing infrastructure.
Advantages of SMRs
SMRs are designed with a smaller core damage frequency (likelihood that an accident will damage the nuclear fuel) and source term (a measure of radioactive contamination) compared to conventional NPPs. They also include enhanced seismic isolation for more safety. The amount of nuclear fuel stored in an SMR project will also be lower than that in a conventional NPP.
Acceleration the deployment of SMRs will boost India`s target of achieving net-zero by 2070. By transitioning the existing thermal power plants to SMRs. Most land-based SMRs require low enriched uranium, which can be supplied by supplied by all countries that possess uranium mines and facilities. Since SMRs are designed to operate for 40 years or more. The expected coast of electricity is $60-90 per MWh.
Legal and Regulatory challenges in India
Setting up Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in India presents several legal and regulatory challenges. Firstly, India’s Atomic Energy Act of 1962 tightly controls nuclear activities, requiring thorough approval processes.
Second, safety standards, including those for SMRs, must adhere to strict guidelines set by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
Third, securing land and addressing public concerns about nuclear safety are critical. Additionally, India’s liability laws need clarification to encourage private sector involvement.
Lastly, ensuring compliance with international non-proliferation agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is essential for global cooperation. Overcoming these challenges is crucial for the successful deployment of SMRs in India.
In conclusion, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) offer a promising avenue for India’s transition to cleaner energy sources and its pursuit of net-zero emissions. However, navigating the legal and regulatory landscape, enhancing safety standards, addressing public concerns, and ensuring international cooperation remain vital steps in realizing the potential benefits of SMRs in India’s energy sector. With concerted efforts, SMRs can play a pivotal role in India’s sustainable energy future.
References: Can SMRs help India achieve net zero?- Published in The Hindu