India is working on a plan to fire up nuclear power production to supplement the country’s renewable energy programme as it looks for ways to meet climate change targets. The policy interventions could include incentives for the private sector for setting up nuclear power plants in public-private partnership mode.
The thrust will be on small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) that require less space at capital costs lower than traditional nuclear power plants.
A senior government official told ET that the Niti Aayog will start stakeholder consultations shortly and a policy will be put in place soon to invite the private sector to set up these small nuclear power plants.
India currently operates 22 reactors totalling 6,780 MW and those under execution or accorded administrative approval and financial sanction will lift it to 22,480 MW by 2031.
SMRs have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, around one-third of standard nuclear power reactors. It takes five years to build such a plant.
The land requirement of nuclear power plants is the lowest of all sources of generation while that for biomass is the highest.
Niti Aayog’s blueprint will lay out a regulatory regime, including stringent safety standards, and monitoring mechanisms to assess the outcome and impact on the local community.
‘Can Replace Ageing Thermal Power Plants’
The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, allows nuclear power plants to be established with the corporate sector as a junior equity partner through the supply of components, equipment and works contracts. In 2020, the government opened the atomic energy sector for private players in the areas of medicine, agriculture, and research. The official said nuclear plants can easily replace ageing thermal power plants while reducing India’s dependence on imported coal for meeting energy requirements.
The decision to set up more nuclear power plants is in line with India’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by half, or one billion tonnes, by 2030 and become a net-zero emitter by 2070.
Nuclear power is considered a cleaner form of energy with near-zero emissions. It can provide the country with clean baseload power and reduce dependence on coal and traditional sources of energy in the long run, the government told the Lok Sabha in response to a question Wednesday.
India has entered into uranium purchase agreements with Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan. India was the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide by volume in 2020, although its per capita emissions were lower than the world average.